2023 Missouri Valley Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Roman Penn (Drake)
This season, the Missouri Valley Conference has had its most talent top-to-bottom in quite some time. This increase in talent level can be attributed to the additions of Murray State, Belmont and UIC to the fold.
The regular season concluded with Bradley winning its final 10 conference games, outlasting Drake by a single game for the MVC regular-season crown.
Although it came up just short, Drake has a lot to be proud of, winning 10 of its last 11 games, with its only loss coming to eventual champion Bradley in the season finale.
Even though Bradley and Drake were able to create separation in the regular season, there were four teams that finished within four games of first place.
Due to this widespread arrangement of talent throughout the MVC, I have broken down the league into tiers in order to find places to best make investments before the conference tournament gets underway on Thursday afternoon.
- The Two-Headed Monster: Bradley, Drake
- The Contenders: Southern Illinois, Belmont, Indiana State
- Need a Spark: Missouri State, Murray State
Now that we have that laid out, let’s dive into Arch Madness.
2023 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Bracket
2023 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Odds
Missouri Valley Performance Change in Last 30 Days
The Two-Headed Monster
Brian Wardle’s Bradley Braves bring the nation’s fifth-longest winning streak into the MVC Tournament. They rattled off 10 straight wins — including a 73-61 victory over Drake in their season finale — to take home the regular-season title.
The Bears returned 58.7% of their minutes from a season ago and have utilized this experience to produce a unit that ranks No. 1 in the MVC in Adjusted Efficiency on both ends of the floor.
Bradley has been particularly stout on the defensive end, ranking inside the top two in nearly every significant category.
This defensive strength will be effective early on, as the Bears will play the winner of Northern Iowa-Illinois State. Those teams rank seventh and 10th respectively in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency in MVC play.
On the offensive end, the Braves are led by center Rienk Mast, who leads the team with 14 points and eight boards per game.
Rienk. Mast. 😤 pic.twitter.com/Jpi1YEQRLT
— Bradley Basketball (@BradleyUMBB) January 19, 2023
Bradley’s biggest test will come when it likely plays the winner of Indiana State-Belmont in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
If Belmont is able to outlast Indiana State, this could make for an intriguing matchup, as Belmont has gotten the better of Bradley on two different occasions during the regular season.
Given this tough potential semifinal matchup, my advice would be to invest your money elsewhere, as Bradley currently sits at +140 to take home the title.
This brings me to the second head of our two-headed monster, the Drake Bulldogs.
In his fifth year as head coach, Darian DeVries is looking to punch his second ticket to the Big Dance with Drake.
DeVries has to like his chances after the Bulldogs finished the year 24-7, just one game shy of Bradley.
This high level of success can be attributed to the Bulldogs being one of the most experienced teams in all of college basketball. Drake ranks 27th nationally in D-I experience and returns 67.1% of its minutes from a team that went 25-11 a season ago.
This experienced Bulldogs team will have revenge on its mind, as it was outlasted by Loyola Chicago in the MVC Tournament title game in 2022.
In addition, Drake will be out for blood after coming up short against Bradley to end the year.
What I love about this Drake team is its ability to take care of the basketball. The Bulldogs rank first in the conference in offensive turnover percentage at just 15.1%.
They also combined this with a defense that allows its opponents to grab offensive rebounds on just 20.8% of their field goal attempts, the second-lowest rate in MVC.
Offensively, Drake is led by sophomore Tucker DeVries, who averages 18.9 points per game (second in the MVC).
Tucker DeVries in February:
•21.8 ppg (19.4 ppg for season)
DeVries is an elite shooter. He can score on all 3 levels and can shoot off the catch and the dribble + great post game. The 6’7” wing has Drake a tough play and love his NBA game pic.twitter.com/zltNY0qNO2
— liam giffin (@LiamGiffsports) February 18, 2023
This ability to win the possession game will give the Bulldogs a leg up no matter who they face.
Lastly, I love the draw Drake was able to get even after missing out on the No. 1 overall seed.
The Bulldogs’ quarterfinal matchup will be with the winner of Valparaiso and Murray State. The Bulldogs went a combined 3-0 in their matchups with both teams in the regular season.
If Drake is able to handle its side of the bracket, I like its odds to potential take down Bradley in what will be a revenge spot in the MVC title game.
In this second tier, I will quickly run through a couple of teams I think may be potentially worth an investment based on their ability to disrupt the paths of Bradley and Drake at the top.
Indiana State Sycamores
The first team we will address is Josh Schertz’s Indiana State Sycamores.
If you have tuned into any of the Sycamores’ games this season, you know how volatile this team can be. Indiana State ended MVC play by losing five straight, then winning seven straight before dropping its last two.
These up-and-down results can be directly tied to the Sycamores’ play on the offensive end. Indiana State shoots the most 3-point attempts in the conference.
Even given this dependence on their outside shooting, the Sycamores have been able to post the No. 2-rated offense in terms of Adjusted Efficiency, averaging 78.7 points per game.
Indiana State is led by DePaul senior transfer Courvoisier McCauley, who is seventh in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.4 per game.
Lastly, the Sycamores have to like their draw, as they face Evansville in the first round. The Aces were only able to win one conference game this season.
It would not be out of the question for Indiana State to use this matchup as a jumping off point to get hot from distance and make a run in Arch Madness.
This brings me to our next team: Belmont.
The Bruins were able to put together a respectable season, finishing 14-6 in MVC play, which was good for a tie for third place with Southern Illinois.
This success was the result of a balanced and fast-paced offensive attack. The Bruins had three players finish the season averaging double-figures: Ben Sheppard, Cade Tyson and Drew Friberg.
Belmont was especially efficient from beyond the arc, ranking second in the conference in 3-point percentage.
What makes this Belmont team worth a look from a MVC Tournament futures perspective is its draw.
If Indiana State is not able to get hot from distance, the Bruins could have a date with Bradley in the semifinals. This is important to note, as Belmont has come out on top in both of its matchups with Bradley in the regular season.
At a price of +850, this makes Belmont worth a look if you don’t want to invest in a streaky Indiana State team.
Southern Illinois Salukis
The last team that must be put into the “contenders” conversation is the Southern Illinois Salukis.
With Bryan Mullins at the helm for his fourth season, Southern Illinois was able to use its experience to finish 14-6 in conference play, good for a tie for third with Belmont.
The Salukis had key wins over Belmont and Drake early in conference play and recently fell short against Bradley by just two points.
Although this team is experienced, it’s far too unpredictable for me to advocate any type of investment pre-tournament.
On offense, the Salukis rank 260th nationally in turnover percentage, turning the ball over on 19.5% of their offensive possessions.
Additionally, Southern Illinois shoots the 10th-most 3-point shots in the country, despite ranking 270th in 3-point percentage at just 32.4%.
Look for a potential second-round matchup with Missouri State — a team that ranks third in the MVC in defensive turnover percentage — to potentially give the Salukis some trouble.
Need a Spark
To quickly wrap things up, I will look at a couple of teams that need everything to go right in order to have success.
Missouri State Bears
Although the Bears were able to finish a respectable 12-8 in the conference, they have the second-highest turnover rate in the Missouri Valley at 19.3%.
This does not help an offense that plays at a snail’s pace, averaging 19.6 seconds per possession.
The ceiling for this team would be a semifinal appearance, where it would likely face Southern Illinois or Drake.
Murray State Racers
The Racers finished MVC play at 11-9, but were just 3-11 in games played away from their home floor.
This inability to perform on the road can be attributed to a defense that ranked second-to-last in the MVC, allowing 73.4 points per game.
A meeting with Drake in the second round is the ceiling for this Murray State team.
2023 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Wrap Up
To wrap things up, I like the angle of fading Bradley in this year’s edition of the MVC Tournament.
I believe the best way to approach this is through investments in Drake at +140, as it has a more favorable draw on the bottom half of the bracket.
In addition, if you are looking for some more value, Indiana State has the make-up of a team that can get hot at the right time.
Lastly, Belmont is worth a look given its balanced offensive attack and history against Bradley in the regular season.
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