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—UE won’t get under way at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament until Friday, but Arch Madness starts Thursday with the 8/9 and 7/10 games at the Scottrade Center. No. 9 Drake opened a 2.5-point favorite over No. 8 Bradley for the 6:05 p.m. game (winner plays Creighton), and No. 10 Southern Illinois opened a 2.5-point favorite over No. 7 Missouri State in the 8:35 p.m. nightcap (winner plays Wichita State).

—For live stats, an updated bracket and live-streamed postgame press conferences throughout the entirety or Arch Madness, follow along with the MVC’s Tournament Central page.

—Before UE tips with Indiana State at 2:35 p.m. Friday, the Aces’ athletic department will host a 12:30 p.m. pregame party with light refreshments and a cash bar on the Mezzanine Level of the Scottrade Center. The MVC for the first time also has a fan hangout at the Sheraton Hotel near the arena for those looking for something to do between games.

—More Arch Madness predictions rolled in on Wednesday. After CBS Sports picked UE earlier this week, BracketologyExpert.com joined themESPN.com picks Illinois State, and the Road to 592 blog sees UE as a dark horse. Also, SBNation.com ran down each mid-major conference tournament, giving UE senior Colt Ryan a brief mention.

—Indiana State coach Greg Lansing called junior Manny Arop’s status a game-time decision earlier this week, but UE’s coaches and players fully expect the Sycamores’ second-leading scorer to have his suspension lifted for the postseason.

—When the Aces and Sycamores take the floor Friday, check this blog for a running, up-to-the-second game chat from the Scottrade Center similar to this one earlier in the season. The same goes if UE advances to play Saturday and Sunday games.

D.J. Balentine earned his second MVC accolade in as many days Wednesday when he was named to the league’s all-bench team, as voted on by the conference’s 10 beat writers. I was somewhat surprised to see senior Ned Cox left off the most-improved listing giving his performance this season in a starting role.

—And one observation from the new guy regarding MVC all-conference and specialty awards: Creighton junior Ethan Wragge was voted both the sixth man of the tear and the all-bench team’s captain. Those were taken in separate votes and, theoretically, could have gone to two different players. That could be condensed in the future.

—UE’s women’s basketball team wraps up the regular season on a road swing — against Creighton at 7:05 p.m. Thursday and Drake at 2:05 p.m. Saturday. The Aces will play one and possibly both without sophomore Mallory Ladd, the latest UE player to go down injured. Without Ladd on Thursday, coach Oties Epps will have seven players available.

—Another day, another story on the job former UE coach Jim Crews is doing at Saint Louis – this one from ESPN.com. Billikens senior Kwamain Mitchell on Crews, who’s coached Saint Louis to first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference: “He’s kept everything together. Our team is filled with experience and maturity, but he’s made sure that we live in the moment. He’s helped us keep our focus through all of this.”

Looking to re-fill its schedule from some rained out home tournament games, the UE softball team will host Bowling Green State for a 2 p.m. Friday doubleheader at Cooper Stadium.

—The UE men’s swimming program begins the Mid-American Conference Championships on Thursday in Carbondale, Ill., where the host team is Southern Illinois. Click here for a full schedule of events through Saturday.

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