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Missouri Valley Conference

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament concluded on Sunday. So who’s headed to the Big Dance?

The conference tournament final delivered the matchup everyone expected as the top seed, the Northern Iowa Panthers, met up with the No. 2 seed, the Wichita State Shockers. One of the Panthers’ four losses this season came against the Shockers, so a close game was expected.

Instead the Panthers’ smothering defense made short work of the Shockers in a 67-52 win as a 3.5-point favorite at Bovada. Kwadzo Ahelegbe led the way with 24 points, but it was the Northern Iowa defense that stole the show. The Panthers’ D put the game away in the second half by shutting down the Shockers during a 25-3 run. At one point during the run Wichita State went 12 minutes without a point.

This makes back-to-back tournament titles for the Panthers. Northern Iowa also made it into the Big Dance in 2009, but didn’t fare well. In their opening-round matchup that year, as a No. 12 seed versus No. 5 seed Purdue, the Panthers were quickly bounced after a 61-56 loss as 8.5-point underdogs.

Prior to last year the Panthers last made it into the tournament in 2006. They were out in the first round again that year after losing to Georgetown as a No. 10 seed. The last time the Panthers made it beyond the first round was in 1990; they pulled off a big upset of No. 3 Missouri as a No. 14 seed, but were stopped in the second round by a loss to Minnesota.

This year’s Panthers squad was an impressive 28-4 SU during the regular season. Their four losses came against DePaul, Wichita State, Bradley, and Evansville. Northern Iowa was a pretty good choice for bettors on most nights with a 20-11 record ATS - that includes a 14-9 record ATS when they were the favorite.