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Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Betting Preview: Who Holds Value With Loyola Chicago?

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Betting Preview: Who Holds Value With Loyola Chicago? article feature image

Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Aher Uguak.

Before you scroll right through this article, assuming this is some kind of literary coronation of Loyola Chicago, let me remind you of a little something about Arch Madness: It’s an event steeped in underdog success stories. 

In the last 10 years, the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Tournament has cut down the nets only three times. The average seeding of the MVC champion in the last five years alone is just 3.2. And keep in mind, this is just a 10-team league.

And, just for good measure, the top-seed has failed to make the title game in three of the last five years. In terms of volatility, the MVC is one of the most unpredictable postseason tournaments to cover. 

So, let’s have a look at this bracket.

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🏆THE BRACKET IS HERE🏆@RamblersMBB will be the top seed at #ArchMadness after securing the regular season crown tonight.

— MVC Basketball (@ValleyHoops) February 28, 2021

The Ramblers took home the MVC regular-season crown last week and head to St. Louis ranked 20th in the AP Poll, 18th in the NET, and 11th in KenPom. 

Of the four teams they could play on their road to the semifinals, they hold a collective record of 7-1 against them with an average margin of victory of eight points. 

Given this layout, if you want to dream of winning this thing, it helps to be on the Drake side of the bracket, which, given the Bulldogs’ injury issues, is wide open. 

The Favorite

Loyola Chicago -155

Loyola Chicago Ramblers

Porter Moser has already proven that 2018 wasn’t a fluke. Sister Jean’s program is 21-4 (16-2) on the season and appears primed to make another run in the Big Dance.

Surprisingly, the Ramblers haven’t fortified a position within the AP Top 25 with the traditional mid-major formula. They don’t have a superstar that the major programs whiffed on, a la Steph Curry or Damian Lillard. 

Nor do they bomb away from 3-point range. In fact, Loyola attempts fewer than 20 treys per game, which places them 256th nationally in that statistic. Instead, they slow the game way down, playing at nearly the slowest pace in all of college basketball. 

That allows their suffocating half-court defense and elite defensive rebounding to go to work. Loyola allows just 56 points per game (1st), and given its defensive efficiency (4th) and defensive rebound ranking (10th), it’s unlikely that it’ll suddenly regress overnight and allow a team to turn a game into a track meet. 

We have a feel for Loyola’s pre-tournament odds throughout Arch Madness, thanks to our friends at TeamRankings

Given the fact that Loyola is going off between -150 and -225 depending on the book, it’s worth shopping around for the best number. 

I feel confident it’ll cruise to the title game, but hedging out of a -150 position is entirely different from a -225 ticket. If you can’t find it at -200 or better, parlaying it on the moneyline in consecutive games (Quarters, Semis) would be preferable to the futures value. 

For the sake of clean math, if you wagered $225 on Loyola to win the MVC with a net return of $100, you wouldn’t have a simple hedge opportunity before any game tipped. If, however, you took the same $225 and rolled it over round-by-round via moneyline plays, you could have a scenario that looked like this:

  • Quarterfinals — $225 at (-1000)
  • Semifinals — $248 at (-600)
  • Finals — $290

At this point, with $65 dollars of profit (+28% return), there are far more attractive ways to reach that original $100 profit you were entertaining with a -225 MVC futures ticket. 

You could play your profits on the Loyola ML at $65 and get in the neighborhood of $90 should it win. In that scenario, you’d nearly reach your initial goal or end up even. Or you could play Loyola in the -5/-6 point spread range for the last $35 and either hit your goal or walk away up $30 for your troubles. 

This of course is predicated on my firm belief that Loyola is an ironclad lock in its first two games. 

Photo Credit: Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.

Value Plays

Missouri State +750

Missouri State Bears

This team can really shoot the basketball, particularly inside the arc (56.7%, 13th). And when I’m targeting teams to reel off a handful of upsets, I want to examine their absolute ceiling. 

To the Bears’ credit, they gave Drake two quality efforts, which is when the Bulldogs were at full strength and steamrolling the competition. 

That included jumping out to a 15-point first-half lead against Drake in their first meeting. Since then, Drake has proven mortal, going 6-3 straight up and 5-4 against the spread in its last nine. 

It’s also helpful that MO State pulls Valpo in the quarterfinals because it dominated the Crusaders on the road in their two meetings this season. 

TeamRankings puts Missouri State’s odds at reaching the finals at 30%, but I think it’s closer to a 50/50 proposition given its projected path. If it does meet Loyola in the title game, a +750 ticket presents a host of profitable hedge opportunities. 

Photo Credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

Northern Iowa+5000

Northern Iowa Panthers

As I said at the top, the Drake side of the bracket is the place to attack the MVC from a betting perspective. 

The Panthers never truly recovered from the loss of AJ Green back in the fall. The sharpshooting junior meant everything to UNI, and it fell apart when he was lost for the season to a hip injury. 

It responded by dropping 11 of its next 17 games before a late-season bounce helped it finish its regular-season campaign on a mini-run (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS). Was it a dead cat bounce? I don’t think so. 

If anything, UNI’s defense has returned to form, holding MVC opponents to 63 points per game in regulation across their last four. Additionally, Austin Phyfe has upped his game considerably, providing UNI with a second scoring option alongside senior wing Trae Berhow. 

The Panthers just beat Illinois State in back-to-back games in Normal and drew the Redbirds again to start tournament play. 

If they win, they’ll face a wounded Drake team that is down ShanQuan Hemphill and Roman Penn. 

If they can upset the Bulldogs as a four-to-five point underdog, this 50:1 future ticket is a license to print money. Hedging out in the semifinals and finals becomes straightforward. 

Photo Credit: David K Purdy/Getty Images.


Southern Illinois +12500

Southern Illinois Salukis

This play is predicated on three things: the juicy odds, the Salukis’ performance against Loyola last week (took it to OT) and Lance Jones. 

The sophomore wing has been filling it up lately with 21 against Valpo and 30 against Loyola Chicago. Even a hot start against Loyola would provide a massive hedge opportunity. 

In Loyola’s last five games, it’s trailed twice at half before revving up its offense in the second half. With a huge payout at the end of the rainbow, if Southern Illinois can put together a strong first 20 minutes, I would hammer Loyola’s live ML, which hopefully would drop from the -1500 range to the -400 range with 20 minutes remaining. 

This, of course, is dependent on the Salukis knocking off Bradley in the opening round. Given that they split with the Braves on the road, I’m not backing off a flyer on SIU.

Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
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