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Ben Jacobson

Ben Jacobson

It’s OK for the Missouri Valley Conference’s upper echelon — Creighton, Wichita State and Indiana State — to lose, so long as those three are losing to each other.

That’s Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson’s view when looking at the MVC’s NCAA tournament chances.

Jacobson, who led the Panthers to the 2010 Sweet Sixteen, shared some thoughts on this year’s tournament field following his team’s 54-51 overtime defeat to UE on Tuesday at the Ford Center.

“All three of those teams are at-large teams,” Jacobson said. “So the fact that they’ve beat each other doesn’t hurt us at all. If those three teams – the obvious – if they lose multiple games of the last eight, they go .500, they go 3-5, if that happens to those teams, then that hurts a little bit. Then the strength of the league and the difficulty of getting through the league because of the way our teams are, that can hurt you.”

Indiana State’s road upset of Wichita State on Tuesday sparked Jacobson’s conversation.

The Shockers’ other two losses came to Tennessee and UE. Creighton has dropped games to Boise State, Drake and Wichita State. And while Indiana State has seven losses, the Sycamores’ strength of schedule and victories over Miami and Wichita State have them sitting, at worst, on the NCAA tournament bubble.

(If that’s not enough, check out this graphic for Indiana State’s tournament resume.)

Creighton and Wichita State — both five seeds — were securely in bracket expert Joe Lunardi’s field in his latest projections released Tuesday. Indiana State was among the “Next Four Out,” though that came before the Sycamores’ big win.

Should those three keep pace, a surprise at Arch Madness could land the MVC with as many as four NCAA tournament bids.

“Because our league is strong – a strong non-conference strength of schedule – three teams have positioned themselves for at-large bids,” Jacobson said. “The strength of our league is helping us right now.”

The MVC’s standing in the ratings percentage index is ninth as a league, and those top three have combined for eight wins over the top 50.

UE saw its RPI climb to as high as 78th after it beat Wichita State. But since the Aces have lost three of five, they’re now 105th.

In terms of an at-large bid to the NCAAs, UE needs a miracle. The NIT isn’t out of reach, however, as Northern Iowa made the field last year while 73rd in the RPI, and Illinois State was 100th.

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