Who They Are
Mississippi Valley State (MVSU) is a small public university in the northwestern part of Mississippi. The school is home to just over 2,400 undergraduate students and competes in the Division-I Southwestern Athletic Conference. As is necessary for all small- and mid-major Illini opponents, they have a very unique team nickname: The Delta Devils.
What They Did Last Year
The Delta Devils had...a rough year last year. They compete with the likes of Grambling State, Southern, and Alcorn State, but they were at the bottom of the barrel amongst those teams during the 2017-2018 season. Mississippi Valley State finished with a 4-28 record, and just like the Illini they finished 4-14 in conference play.
In fact, they did not get their first win until January 27th, when they beat Jackson State 72-67 at home. This means the Delta Devils were 0-20 to begin the season... I guess 0-6 to start conference play last year wasn’t as bad as we thought. The other three wins were against Alabama A&M, Prairie View A&M, and Grambling State.
The year previous, the Delta Devils were not much better; they went 7-25. The 2018-2019 season is coach Andre Payne’s fifth year at the head of the program. The only mutual team that the Delta Devils and the Illini played last season was Grand Canyon. As you remember, Illinois defeated the Antelopes on a go-ahead three-pointer from Da’Monte Williams. Mississippi Valley lost to Grand Canyon 71-38 on Dec. 18, 2017.
Who to Watch
The Delta Devils have a pair of returning high-scoring players. Dante Scott (6-foot-4, forward) and Jordan Evans (6-foot-2, guard) are both seniors and averaged 14.9 and 14.7 points last year, respectively. Through six games this season, Evans is at the same average and Scott is down to 14.2 points.
The next leading scorer, Michael Green, sits at just 6.6 points per game, so it’s fair to say that Evans and Scott do the heavy lifting. To make things look even more favorable for the Illini, no one listed on the roster located on the MSVU athletics site is over 6-foot-8.
This should be an easy win for Illinois, which will hopefully quell the nerves of Illini fans frustrated by a close loss to Gonzaga and a blowout to the recently-jilted Talen Horton-Tucker of Iowa State.
This might be the only time we say this all year, but Illinois might actually have a significant height and size advantage in this game. Giorgi (6-foot-9) showed some great early promise against Georgetown and Gonzaga, and as Adonis De La Rosa gets healthier the hope is that he continues to improve. Look for a bounce-back game from Ayo (and hopefully Kipper), and perhaps some more playing time for Griffin and Tevian to develop.
As long as the Illini can stay on schedule this year, there is a chance they could overcome the win total from last season. And there is no reason why Illinois can’t win this game by 30 points.
Illinois 91, MSVU 60