Sunday Missouri Valley Conference Championship Odds & Pick for Drake vs. Loyola Chicago (March 7)
Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Braden Norris
- Loyola-Chicago is favored over shorthanded Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game on Sunday afternoon.
- The Ramblers have boasted an elite defense all season, while Drake has been great in its own right on the defensive end over the last few weeks.
- Get our full breakdown and best bet for Loyola vs. Drake below.
MVC Championship Odds
Drake vs. Loyola Chicago
|Loyola Chicago Odds||-7.5|
|Time||Sunday, 2:10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday morning and via BetMGM.|
Believe it or not, but the Missouri Valley Conference was once a mainstay in the exclusive March Madness multi-bid fraternity. The Valley punched at least one at-large bid every year between 1999 and 2007.
Unfortunately, as Creighton and Wichita State exited the conference in recent years, the MVC has been relegated to a single-bid conference. But this season there was hope, particularly once preseason favorite Loyola was paired with a worthy adversary. Drake opened the season 18-0 straight-up, and split with the Ramblers in Des Moines. And despite a pair of critical injuries, the Bulldogs have preserved and made their second MVC final in school history, its first since 2008.
By virtue of this No. 1 vs. No. 2 MVC title game, there’s real hope for both programs to make the field of 68 when the bracket is revealed next week. As of today, Bracket Matrix projects Loyola as an eight seed and Drake as a 12 seed.
If the Bulldogs find a way to crack Loyola’s defense and capture the victory, a multi-bid March for the Valley is a sure thing. But if Loyola tightens their defensive vise grip on Drake and cuts down the nets on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis it could be a long week of waiting and wondering for Drake.
So can Drake make it easier on the committee with a win to cap their Arch Madness run? Let’s have a look.
Drake’s Surprising Savior
Seniors Shanquan Hemphill and Roman Penn are on the shelf Sunday and that makes the treading considerably harder for the Bulldogs. While Hemphill is expected to return should they make the Big Dance, Penn is out for the season. Collectively, that’s 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, and seven assists per game missing from the Drake attack.
In the past five games, Drake has turned to sophomore Joseph Yesufu as its go-to offensive answer. The 6-foot-0 shooting guard recently won the MVC’s Sixth Man of the Year award, but even that hardware didn’t prepare the basketball world for his recent run. He has been shockingly good in his new volume-scoring role, pumping 26 points per game. He’s caught fire from 3-point range a few times, consistently gotten to the line, and limited turnovers despite his huge jump in usage. He’s also proven ready for the big stage, evidenced by his game-winner against Missouri State on Saturday afternoon.
But it hasn’t been all Yesufu to the rescue for Drake. Senior Tremell Murphy chipped in 20 points on 80% shooting from the field against Missouri State and has a handful of breakout performances this season to his credit. He will be critical against an elite Loyola defense that will be sure to pay Yesufu additional attention on Sunday afternoon. Outside of Yesufu and Murphy, head coach Darian DeVries doesn’t have many established scoring options to turn to at the moment.
Defensively, Drake played its best game of the year back on Valentine’s Day against Loyola, holding the Ramblers to 45 points in regulation. The Bulldogs one-point overtime victory was fueled by elite interior defense and 19 forced turnovers. They’ll need a similarly disruptive effort to spark the upset here because I foresee a classic Loyola performance on the defensive end.
Loyola’s Suffocating Defense
Loyola’s defensive success is predicated on its “No Middle” philosophy and tireless on-ball pressure in the halfcourt. The results are staggering, and it starts with Lucas Williamson. The MVC Defensive Player of the Year is one of the best lockdown defenders you’ll ever see and he excels at taking away an opponent’s top scoring option. Collectively, Loyola’s defense is elite in nearly every metric. They don’t give up easy looks, rebound the ball at a high level and do it all without fouling. Just have a look at these rankings:
- Defensive Efficiency: 0.851 (4th)
- Points Per Game: 55.5 (1st)
- Def Rebound %: 80.9% (7th)
- Opponents FT Per Game: 11.4 (1st)
The foul component is particularly important in this one, because Drake’s Yesufu has been getting to the line with ease during his hot streak. He’s averaged eight foul shots per game since being thrust into the alpha role for Drake. Without those baked-in points, Drake will have to do most of its damage from beyond the arc. Opponents have only made 5.7 treys per game against Loyola, which is the 17th best figure in all of college basketball.
Offensively, Loyola has quietly become one of the most efficient teams in the nation. They share the ball incredibly well (AST/FGM, 30th) and feature a lineup that has seven players averaging seven or more points per game. The offense still runs through “point-center” Cameron Krutwig, and his sure-handed play has led to a handful of single-digit turnover performances. When the offense is clicking, and not affording opponents turnovers and fastbreak opportunities, this team is seemingly unbeatable.
Betting Analysis & Pick
This spread is significant in a game that I anticipate will be played in the upper 50s or lower 60s. Loyola doesn’t have the offense to run away from quality opponents, but given Drake’s personnel issues, they’ll certainly be able to make life extremely difficult for the Bulldogs on the offensive end. That’s why I’m advocating for a moneyline/total parlay in this spot. Blending Loyola at -350 with under 127.5, pays out a hair below +150.
Pick: Loyola Moneyline + Under 127.5 Parlay (+145)