It’s over. Drury has not only secured the top seed in the GLVC men’s basketball tournament, it probably has locked up the No. 1 seed in the NCAA D-II Midwest Region, which means we’ll be returning to Springfield, Mo., in March. When the Panthers beat both Wisconsin-Parkside 54-52 at home on Thursday and Lewis 56-53 at home on Saturday — and with three regular-season games left against the likes of William Jewell, Rockhurst and Missouri S&T — the battle now is for the rest of the seedings. Figure Indianapolis, regardless what USI does to them on Thursday night on the road, will get the No. 2 seed, with Parkside No. 3 and Lewis No. 4. Then again, if UIndy loses at home to both USI and Bellarmine this week — and don’t rule that out — the Eagles have a shot at the No. 4 seed, I think. OK, it’s hard to tell for sure with all the tie-breakers the conference has, but I have to believe it’s distinctly within the realm of possibility, especially in this crazy season in the GLVC. Well, except for the Drury steamroller. Then again, the Panthers haven’t been winning by much on the road. They beat Missouri-St. Louis by just three and Maryville by the same number of points in two road games, escaped with a five-point overtime win at Quincy, won by just four at McKendree — and lost at Bellarmine by eight, their only loss of the season. And remember that USI pushed them pretty hard at the PAC before the Eagles lost by eight.
This is all about momentum, and USI could be about to keep it going. Aaron Nelson returns after his two-game suspension (and two USI victories). I’ve got to believe he wants to redeem himself for letting his teammates down. If he becomes even more of a monster than he has been this season (remember: 18 double-doubles in points and rebounds), I’d hate to be the Eagles’ final three regular-season opponents. And if USI goes into the GLVC Tournament on a five-game winning streak, I would put up the Eagles as a solid favorite to win the GLVC title at the Ford Center.