Hochman: Missouri State’s Mosley is one of four scorers to watch as we head into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament | Benjamin Hochmann

When he’s not coaching one of the most well-known guards in the NBA, Blake Ahearn can be found watching one of college basketball’s lesser-known guards.

Ahearn is an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies, the No. 3 team in the NBA’s Western Conference, thanks to the transcendent Ja Morant, who is proudly coached by the St. Louis native. But the Grizzlie is still a bear — Ahearn was one of the best guards to ever play at Missouri State. And as he watches his old college team, he’s captivated by his modern contemporary in the Bears backcourt.

“Isiaih Mosley turned out to be a handful,” Ahearn said Wednesday, “not just for the Valley, but also for the rest of the country.

“He and (Gaige) Prim are a 1-2 death punch for the game plan. I can’t wait to see what March brings to the Bears.

March means madness, but in the Missouri Valley Conference, first comes “Arch Madness”. The annual MVC tournament takes place at the Enterprise Center, and just a week from Thursday, Isiaih Mosley will be on display on Clark Avenue. And when it’s on, it looks like Ja. He entered Wednesday with the second-highest scoring average in the conference at 19.5. And its effectiveness is astounding. He’s shooting 50% from the field (he’s a guard!), 42.1% from 3-point range and an Ahearn 91.9% from the foul line.

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MVC’s Loyola Chicago Ramblers have lost only twice at home this season, and once to Missouri State. Mosley cried so many tears he may even have spilled some. He scored 40 points as he continued to shed tears and, something that wasn’t said much during the NFL season, the Bears won in Chicago. Oh, and Loyola was ranked No. 22 at the time.

“The success of the Bears has been great to see,” Ahearn said. “What Dana (Ford) and his team have done has put them in a great position to make a run at the right time.”

The MVC Tournament is one of my favorite weeks on the St. Louis sports calendar because every year we are introduced to a few new bursting players. This could be the March when all of America learns of Mosley, if Missouri State is able to win the tournament — and the NCAA Tournament bid — in his home state.

As we head into the MVC tournament, there are really five teams that could challenge for the title – Loyola, Northern Iowa, Drake, Missouri State and Bradley. It’s always fun for the conference when Loyola wins – the Ramblers travel well, they stand out in the crowd with their Harry Potter sashes, and of course there’s that possibility of seeing Sister Jean. But this year the Ramblers are so good that it might be better for the conference if Loyola didn’t win. That would bring another MVC team into the NCAA Tournament, as Loyola should be good enough for an overall offer (#37 in NET rankings and #34 in KenPom).

AJ Green can pick up a game like, well, AJ Green.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Northern Iowa has scored 20 or more points nine times in the conference, and his 6-foot-4 NFL namesake would surely be impressed. Northern Iowa’s Green was MVC’s pre-season player of the year and will be up for the player of the year award. Its best game actually came at the expense of Missouri State. Green scored 33 points in an 85-84 road win … and did it on just nine goals scored. Green is not green; the veteran can shoot fouls strategically, and in that game he had 14 free throws, making 13. Northern Iowa’s victory spoiled the best performance of the day by, of course, Isiaih Mosley. He scored 43 points — forty-three! – with nine rebounds and four assists.

Now, one of the best offensive players in the conference is also the best defensive player. Shoot, you could argue that Lucas Williamson is the greatest defensive player in Missouri Valley Conference history.

As a freshman, he was a key part of the Loyola Chicago team that reached the Final Four. He played valiantly in subsequent seasons, surely leading the league in hustle per 100 possessions and defensive burns on the ground. And then last season, he won MVC honors for Defensive Player of the Year…and Loyola once again reached the Sweet 16, eliminating, of all opponents, Illinois. It would have been a symbolic and emphatic win any year, but that year the Illini were a No. 1 seed.

But today we’re talking offense, and Williamson leads the team in points per game with 13.7 (and leads Loyola in rebounds, steals and 3 points). And just last Saturday, against a quality Drake team, he scored 27 points… albeit in a loss.

Tucker DeVries will make his St. Louis debut in Arch Madness this year, and he’ll be a player to watch for the next four. As the 98th prep rookie nationally, he became Drake’s highest rookie since 1989, although Drake may have had an unfair number of home visits given the head coach lives his home. Tucker is the son of Drake’s trainer, Darian DeVries, and the two have teamed up for a stellar season — Drake passed the 20-win plateau this winter. Tucker DeVries leads the team with 14.7 points per game, and he also had a team-high 65 3-pointers. In that win at Loyola, the kid scored 24 field goals for the Ramblers.

The only other time the Ramblers lost at home was, yes, the night Missouri State’s Mosley went all Ja Morant on them.

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