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Missouri Valley Tournament Odds, Picks & Basketball Betting Preview: 8 Bets to Watch for Arch Madness

Missouri Valley Tournament Odds, Picks & Basketball Betting Preview: 8 Bets to Watch for Arch Madness article feature image
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Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Lucas Williamson.

There’s nothing wrong with the other conference tournaments. Arch Madness is just better.

The Missouri Valley is the most entertaining conference in the country. It’s become an annual two-bid league with Loyola Chicago at the helm. Drake made a run to the First Four last season.

But the rabbit hole goes deeper. Missouri State is electric offensively. Northern Iowa is the over bettor’s dream team. And after the way things went down this season, the dominant Ramblers are somehow the No. 4 seed!

Plus, the name “Arch Madness” is better than any other conference tournament name.

So, let’s take a trip down to St. Louis and break down the major storylines — and best betting angles — for the Valley’s 2022 conference tournament.

Bracket & Odds

Photo via MVC-Sports.com. View full-size image in new tab.

#9 Indiana State vs. #8 Illinois State

It’s worth looking at Indiana State.

The Sycamores underperformed this season, no doubt about it. But the team is very young (337th in average years of experience, 1.07), and coach Josh Schertz has some promise with this group.

The Sycamores’ biggest strengths are length, athleticism, and versatility. The Sycamore starting five stands between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-7. They can be tough defensively and they rebound well, finishing the season 12th nationally in defensive rebounding rate.

Indiana State finished seventh in the conference in defensive efficiency, but opponents blitzed the Sycamores from 3, shooing 36% in conference play. And that’s likely why ShotQuality projects them for positive regression, as the Sycamores’ finished with a 14-16 SQ record based on the quality of shots taken and allowed (as opposed to their 11-19 actual record).

Indiana State enters Arch Madness on a five-game losing streak, which includes a 20-point blowout loss to Illinois State in the season finale.

But I’m not the biggest fan of what Illinois State does. The Redbirds aren’t particularly strong anywhere except in 3-point shooting (36.8%, third in conference) and 3-point defense (33.7%, second in conference). It feels like this team is begging for regression.

For example, INDS shot just 8-for-29 from 3 in that aforementioned loss to Illinois State.

So, this tournament-opening game could be a great buy-low spot for Indiana State. The Sycamores’ stock is low, they’re in a revenge spot and could get some game-to-game regression. KenPom projects INDS as a three-point neutral-court underdog to Illinois State, and I’d bet INDS catching three or more.

Past this matchup, I’ll likely pass on Indiana State to cut down the nets at 130-to-1. However, I’d consider them it again in potential matchups with Northern Iowa and Loyola.

As mentioned, the Sycamores are due for positive regression, and they take a ton of 3s (25th nationally in 3-point rate). So, it could be a good time for them to get hot from 3 and give the favorites some trouble.

Meanwhile, Northern Iowa is the highest-variance team in the league, and the Ramblers are top-50 nationally in 3-point rate themselves. Either of those teams can have a bad shooting night in concert with Indiana State’s projected positive regression.

Besides, Indiana State kept it within 12 against Loyola in both games and covered twice against Northern Iowa, taking the Panthers to overtime back on Jan. 15.

Picks:

  • Indiana State +3 or better against Illinois State
  • Consider Indiana State ATS against Northern Iowa
  • Consider Indiana State ATS against Loyola Chicago

Valley Champs: #1 Northern Iowa

Speaking of Northern Iowa…

What an impressive run capped by an impressive victory. The Panthers managed to outlast Loyola Chicago in the MVC finale to clinch the regular-season title. The overtime thriller featured two of the league’s best going head-to-head, with AJ Green’s 32 points coming out on top.

Green is the definition of a shot-maker. He’s a player who can get to his spot every time and hit every shot he takes, whether that be at the rim, in the mid-range, or from 3.

He finished this season averaging 19.1 PPG on 60% true-shooting and 38% from 3.

Photo via @CBBAnalytics. View full-size image in new tab.

Plus, Green’s a wizard at getting to the line. He averages 5.2 FTAs per game, which ranks better than 98% of D-I players. He picked up 18 FTAs in the win over Loyola, sinking 16 of them.

Green is impossible to stop.

Oh, and he just won the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year — the same award he won in 2020 and would’ve won last year if he wasn’t sidelined with injury.

For the second time in his career, the Larry Bird Player of the Year is AJ Green of @UNImbb‼️#TheValleyRunsDeep pic.twitter.com/eprcjUBWEI

— MVC Basketball (@ValleyHoops) March 1, 2022

Green is the Panthers’ most important player. But in the end, he’s just another shot-maker in a shot-making scheme.

Every Northern Iowa game devolves into a shooting contest. The Panthers are top-70 in 3-point rate (42.7%) and allow the second-highest 3-point rate (48.5%) nationally. The Panthers chuck it from deep and will allow you to chuck it from deep.

Two things result from this.

First, the Panthers are one of the biggest overs teams in the nation. Considering there’s an average of 52 3s attempted in every UNI game, the Panthers went 18-10 (64.2%) to the over this season.

Second, the Panthers are one of the highest-variance teams in the nation. This level of 3-point variance is how UNI can beat Loyola and sweep Missouri State but also lose to Nicholls State and Valpo.

Given that, I don’t know what to do with Northern Iowa. You could take a shot at them at +500 to cut down the nets, but I’d like a little extra juice to consider that a viable bet.

#4 Loyola Chicago vs. #5 Bradley

This is the Ramblers’ tournament to lose.

Loyola is the conference’s best team, bar none. However, the Ramblers aren’t the same defensive powerhouse they once were.

Instead, Loyola has turned into an offensive powerhouse. More specifically, a shot-making machine.

Drew Valentine has a slow-moving progression offense (315th in tempo) that often works its way toward open jumpers (43.4% 3-point rate, top-50 nationally).

The numbers are staggering. The Ramblers score .982 PPP in the half-court, which is 20th nationally. But more specifically, the Ramblers are 10th nationally in spot-up PPP (1.085) and 11th nationally in catch-and-shoot 3-point efficiency (1.19).

As a result, I’m looking ahead to a potential semifinal matchup between Loyola and the 3-point happy Panthers. If Loyola and UNI face off in the semifinals, I’m ready to target the over at 145 or better.

But, the Ramblers have taken a step back defensively. They’ve dropped out of the top 50 in defensive efficiency this season and outside the top 100 in eFG% allowed (48.4%).

The Ramblers have ceded the Valley’s defensive crown to Bradley, which has been a defensive machine. Bradley leads the conference in defensive efficiency, eFG% allowed (48.3%), block rate (12.3%), and 3-point defense (31.9%).

But most importantly, the Braves rebound the basketball.

Actually, the Braves crash the boards as if their lives depended on it. Bradley leads the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate, and the team grabs 39 rebounds per game, four more than second-place Loyola.

Photo via @CBBAnalytics. View full-size image in new tab.

Bradley is a bit careless with the basketball, but it has enough shot makers to get the job done — the team ranks fourth in the MVC in eFG% (52%).

But look even closer at Bradley.

During the regular season, the Braves beat Loyola-Chicago at home, took the Ramblers to overtime on the road, and swept Drake.

Moreover, Bradley won Arch Madness in back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020 — the only other team to win this tournament since Wichita State left for the AAC.

And ShotQuality projects Bradley for a large amount of positive regression. The Braves’ SQ record is 20-10 based on the quality of shots taken and allowed, as opposed to their actual 17-13 record.

But my larger, over ”arching” point is: Don’t just assume Loyola Chicago will blow through Arch Madness. There are numerous talented teams ready and willing to cut down the nets.

And personally, I love Bradley’s defense, rebounding, Brian Wardle’s tournament history, and the 9-1 price tag. I’m taking a shot with Bradley at +900 to win it all.

Picks:

  • Bradley to Win Arch Madness +900
  • Northern Iowa vs. Loyola Chicago Over 145 or Better (in potential semifinal matchup)
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Bottom of the Bracket

Valley Runner-Up: #2 Missouri State

Missouri State is the most fun team you haven’t heard about.

The Bears have the two best players in the conference — according to KenPom’s Conference Player of the Year formula — in Isiaih Mosley and Gaige Prim.

The duo averages a combined 36.3 PPG with a combined 116.2 ORtg. Mosley is more of a traditional wing who can drive downhill while also shooting the 3. Meanwhile, Prim is an interior force, a 6-foot-9 center who scores close to 1.05 PPP in post-up possessions.

Isiaih Mosley is the most creative scorer in all of college basketball… Once he gets to his boogie, defenders don't really stand a chance… Agents will have their clients ducking him in the pre draft process.. pic.twitter.com/JvpP1RPUa5

— Rafael Barlowe (@Barlowe500) January 31, 2022

Either way, those two create the most overwhelming offensive force in the Valley. The Bears lead the conference in offensive efficiency, offensive turnover rate, and points per game (77.8).

The Bears are probably worth a look to win the MVC Tournament at +300 because of the offense alone. However, I have a different angle I like more.

Whoever comes out of the Valpo-Evansville matchup is in serious trouble. Valpo and Evansville are the two worst defensive teams in the MVC, ranking second-to-last and dead-last in both defensive efficiency and eFG% allowed.

Both teams could get blitzed by the running-and-gunning Bears. Whatever the number is, I’m prepared to lay the points.

Pick: Missouri State ATS vs. Valpo/Evansville at any number

#3 Drake vs #6 Southern Illinois

The potential matchup between Drake and Missouri State is fascinating.

Missouri State can’t defend ball screens. Teams attack the Bears at the 26th-highest frequency, and Missouri State ranks 237th defending the set in terms of efficiency.

Meanwhile, Darian DeVries runs one of the heaviest and most-efficient ball-screen offenses in the nation. Roman Penn is a savvy point guard who can score or assist off that set almost every time DeVries runs it.

Roman Penn busting out 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘴

📺 CBS Sports Network#DrakeALLIN#DSMHometownTeam pic.twitter.com/ln5CAC9xcB

— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) February 26, 2022

But I am not trusting the Drake defense against the Missouri State offense.

There’s nothing specifically wrong with the Bulldogs’ defense, but they’re not strong in any particular area and they have issues with fouling. They rank dead last in the MVC in opponent free-throw rate.

Given Missouri State will have Mosley and Prim attacking constantly, you must think the Bears will rack up as many free throws as possible.

But Drake enters Arch Madness on a hot streak after a lackluster season. The Bulldogs won five games in a row to end their season, which includes a seven-point road win over Loyola.

If Drake matches up with Missouri State in the semifinals, I love the over. Both teams will have a field day against the opposing defenses.

However, are we sure Drake can get past Southern Illinois?

Southern Illinois is a slow-paced team that relies on its defense — the Salukis are third in the conference in defensive efficiency. Moreover, Southern Illinois covered in both its opportunities against Drake this season. In fact, the Salukis lost its two games against Drake by a total of three points.

KenPom projects the Salukis will be two-point underdogs to Drake on Friday night. That’s a little short for me, but if Vegas opens the markets at Southern Illinois +3 or higher, I will be betting the Salukis.

Picks:

  • Southern Illinois +3 or better vs. Drake
  • Drake vs. Missouri State Over 139 or Better

Final Betting Analysis & Picks

  • Bradley to Win Arch Madness +900
  • Indiana State +3 or better against Illinois State in R1
  • Southern Illinois +3 or better vs Drake in R1
  • Missouri State ATS vs. Valpo/Evansville at any number in R1
  • Drake vs Missouri State Over 139 or Better (in potential semifinal)
  • Northern Iowa vs Loyola Chicago Over 145 or Better (in potential semifinal)
  • Consider Indiana State ATS vs. Northern Iowa (in potential R1 matchup)
  • Consider Indiana State ATS vs. Loyola Chicago (in potential semifinal)
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