Welcome to Arch Madness! Seen as a transition year for the Missouri Valley Conference after Loyola-Chicago left and Isiaih Mosley left Missouri State, the Missouri Valley has been an inferior conference this season. Belmont was a newcomer to the conference, ideally alleviating some of the quality lost with the Loyola program, which sits in last place in the Atlantic 10. However, this was a lower level of Belmont basketball compared to years past, where they could have been a Cinderella in past tournaments. Still, the Bruins own arguably the best offense in the conference. Instead, the Drake Bulldogs and the Bradley Braves have been the class of the Missouri Valley for much of the year.
The Missouri Valley will be a single-bid conference this season, so this should carry extra weight for the teams involved. Arch Madness sees the top four seeds (Bradley, Drake, Belmont, and Southern Illinois) receive first-round byes in their bracket.
The Favorite: Drake +155
Barely edging out Bradley, Drake is the favorite to win Arch Madness this year and head to the NCAA Tournament. Backed by elite shooting and rim protection, the Bulldogs have the steady guard play to knock out a 5-seed in March Madness this year. Tucker DeVries, whose father Darian is head coach, is the star, and Garrett Sturtz is the best 6’3″ rebounder in the country and an underrated glue guy.
The Contenders: Bradley +190, Southern Illinois +600, Indiana State +700
Plenty of possible winners here. Bradley, the one-seed, has two skilled post presences in their Dutch forwards Mienk Rast and Malevy Leons. In addition, they limit attempts at the rim on defense, ultimately forcing opposing teams into difficult shots.
Southern Illinois has made its living on the defensive end, with some impressive defensive performances against the high seeds in this league. Still, ultimately their inefficient offense will likely end their season.
Indiana State is the only team mentioned here playing the first round. They are the most balanced team offensively and defensively in the league. While lacking quality rim protection, they have enough length, size, and shooting to run the table in the Missouri Valley Tournament.
Bets: Indiana State +700
While I agree that the DeVries family is running the show for the best team, this tournament is wide open. Despite this, the level of play has been balanced among the top teams in the league. As a result, there is significant value in betting on the Sycamores this year. Although they dropped two games to end the year, they have been arguably the hottest team in the Missouri Valley for the past month and a half. With one of their best players Cam Henry, healthy and ready to go this week, expect Indiana State to make a run in Arch Madness.
All odds courtesy of BetOnline