ST. LOUIS — Creighton coach Greg McDermott doesn't believe that the No. 1 seed is jinxed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
The No. 1 seed has won the Valley Tournament only six times during its 22-year run in St. Louis.
Creighton (24-7, 13-5), which as the No. 2 seed won the tourney last year, enters this year's tourney as the No. 1 seed.
"I'd love to be the top seed every year and try to figure that problem out,'' McDermott said. "It means you've had a successful seson and you've found a way to win the league or at least get a share of the conference title.
"Because of some of the rankings early in the year, we've had a target on our back. We've had to deal with that really all season long, so I don't think the fact that we are going to get everybody's best shot in St. Louis is going to surprise anybody.''
Still, McDermott knows that parity has ruled the MVC this season.
This season is the only year in the history of the MVC that every team has at least six conference wins and at least 10 overall wins.
"I think you can throw out everything once we get to St. Louis,'' McDermott said. "I think it's a very balanced league this year and anything could happen once we get there. I think you'll see some surprises. I just hope one of them doesn't involve the Bluejays.''
The Bluejays are led by McDermott's son, Doug, who has been voted as Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
The 6-foot, 8-inch McDermott leads the MVC and ranks second nationally in scoring with an average of 23.4 points per game. He ranks third in the conference in rebounding (7.6 boards per game) and is second in 3-point percentage (48.1 percent).
"Obviousy, I am very proud of him as his coach and his father,'' Greg McDermott said. "He's invested a lot of time into the game, and has added something to his game every year that he has been here at Creighton with us. That has been gratifying to see.
"The way he has handled his success off the floor has made his mother and I very proud as well.''
Neither Creighton nor second-seeded Wichita State (25-7) are ranked in the Top 25.
Fourth-seeded Evansville (18-13) enters the tourney on a four-game winning streak, but third-seeded Northern Iowa is the hottest team going into the tourney with a 7-2 record in February.
Despite being seeded 10th out of 10 teams, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Salukis also head into the tourney on a high note, having won six of their last eight games, including three in a row.
The Salukis will play seventh-seeded Missouri State Bears, who are coached by former Wesclin High School star Paul Lusk, in a play-in game Thursday night.
Salukis coach Barry Hinson is familiar with the MVC Tournament, having guided Missouri State to the championship game of the tourney three times in his 10 seasons as the Bears' coach. The Bears lost in the title game all three times.
Hinson said he told the Salukis that they need to make it to the quarterfinals if they want to experience the real atmosphere of the tournament.
"There won't be anybody there for the play-in game,'' Hinson said. "There just won't be anybody. We know that. You have to try to find a way to win, so you can experience it somewhat.
"If you just can play one game outside the play-in game, you'll get a feel for it.''
Hinson said the turning point this season for the Salukis was an 83-47 drubbing at the hands of Illinois State on Feb. 2. Hinson got ejected late in game.
"It was awful, just awful,'' Hinson said. "We were getting laughed at, literally. They showed a clip, and you have fans laughing at our guys. It was one of those humilating moments.
"We came back and we told our guys, 'This program has too much tradition for people to laugh at us.'''
The Salukis split their two games with the Bears this season as each team held serve on its home court.
Lusk said the key against the Salukis will be limiting turnovers.
The Salukius have forced an MVC-high 15.6 turnovers per game, while the Bears have committed an MVC-low 10.2 turnovers per game.
"They've played about as solid and as inspired basketball as you can play over the last month,'' Lusk said. "There is no doubt that the turnovers that they force create offense for them. They've been outstanding with that.
"Southern is a mobile team. They are undersized, but they are very mobile and athletic and they can cause some havoc on the defensive end.''
The Salukis are led by junior guard Desmar Jackson, who averages 15.2 points per game, and senior guard Jeff Early, who averages 13.1 points per game.
The Bears, who have six freshman, are the youngest team in the MVC and the seventh youngest team in the country.
Lusk said he hoped the Bears' inexperience wouldn't hurt them in the tourney.
"It will be a new venue, a new experience,'' Lusk said. "If you are a basketball player and you have a pulse at this time of year, you just need to go let it all hang out.
"Are there nerves? Sure, I would think there are nerves for some of our guys, but hopefully they will be able to get through that.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.