Just when I thought the Drake Bulldogs were going to do some rearranging in the Missouri Valley Conference's living room, the Northern Iowa Panthers feel it their duty to disrupt the horseplay.
It took until late in the second half for the Drake Bulldogs to be grounded, but the Panthers eventually did so in convincing fashion.
Drake can kiss its five-game win streak goodbye, and Josh Young can no longer claim a perfect record at Northern Iowa's McLeod Center.
Yet a lot can be taken from the run that saw the Bulldogs knock off conference contenders Missouri State, Illinois State, and Wichita State.
First, Drake proved they can take down—just about—anybody in the conference. Missouri State and Illinois State now join Drake in a tie for fourth place, only four games out of first place but effectively no longer in the running—barring an utter destruction of Northern Iowa.
Second, the Bulldogs' loss against Northern Iowa should encourage: Drake can play with anyone. Now, the challenge becomes how to play with a top 25 team, such as the Panthers, consistently for 40 minutes.
Wichita State dominated Northern Iowa in the teams' previous meeting, and Drake defeated the Shockers without much trouble. The Bulldogs are about to turn the corner; they just have a few more kinks to iron out.
Drake's next contest is Saturday, when rival Creighton comes knocking on the Knapp Center's doors. The game will offer the Bulldogs a chance to create a tie for third place in the MVC standings.
But all this talk of standings is irrelevant if we're discussing a regular season championship—unless your team is Wichita State or Northern Iowa.
The Bulldogs can only play the role of spoiler, as can every other team in the conference—for now.
Hope lies in the conference tournament.
If the Bulldogs keep winning, they may be able to substantially improve their seed in the tournament, delaying when they would play Northern Iowa or Wichita State.
That is when wins will really count.
A postseason tournament may be a long shot, but it's not out of the question for Drake—if they keep winning in bundles of five.
The Bulldogs simply need to start up another streak.
It's not over yet.
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