2023 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Predictions
It isn’t always pretty basketball, but the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament always comes through when you are looking for drama and emotion. This tournament, which has its championship game this coming Sunday, really tips off the start of March Madness and hammers home the reality facing every team in the country over the next month: if you lose, your season may be over.
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament will take place this weekend and is once again being held at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. First round games begin at noon on Thursday, and the championship game will be held on Sunday, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It has been a season of firsts in the MVC this year. Two teams, Murray State and Belmont, are in their first year in The Valley and are experiencing Arch Madness for the first time. This is also the first time that the league has had 12 teams in the conference tournament.
Finally, for the first time in MVC history, five teams will enter Arch Madness with 20 or more wins, as Drake (24), Bradley (23), Southern Illinois (22), Belmont (21), and Indiana State (20) all topped that mark this season. The previous league record for 20-win teams entering the league tournament was three.
Doc’s Sports offers college basketball picks for every game on our NCAA basketball predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports 2023 Missouri Valley preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Bradley
The Braves won their first Missouri Valley regular season championship since 1996 and head to St. Louis as the league’s top seed. They earned the title thanks to a dominating 73-61 home win over Drake in the final game of the regular season last Sunday, and Bradley is hoping to carry that momentum into this weekend. The Braves are in the Top 20 in the country in scoring defense and field goal defense, and they outscored their opponents by an average of 10 points per game this season. They are carrying the nation’s fifth-longest winning streak (nine games) into the postseason tournament and are on an 8-0 run against the spread.
The Contender: Drake
The Bulldogs were the preseason favorites to win the MVC, and I still think that they have the best team. Drake had its 10-game winning streak snapped with that loss to Bradley but will be motivated by the fact that they have come up short in the Missouri Valley Championship Game each of the past two seasons. Tucker DeVries and Roman Penn give Drake a lethal one-two punch, and this team is efficient on both ends of the court.
The Dark Horse: Southern Illinois
The Salukis showed what they are capable of early this season when they went on the road and beat Oklahoma State, giving The Valley one of its three wins this season over major conference opponents. SIU plays a slow, methodical, defensive-oriented style, finishing No. 17 in the nation in points allowed. SIU also has four senior starters, including do-it-all wing Marcus Domask and Lance Jones, and it is always a rock fight against this group.
The Spoiler: Indiana State
Keep an eye on the Sycamores. This team was streaky all season long, going on four different winning streaks of four games or more and two different losing streaks of three games or more. Indiana State plays fast and was the highest scoring team in the conference with 78.7 points per game. Six of their 11 losses this season have come by four points or fewer, and this team is more than capable of pulling a couple upsets to make a run to the finals.
Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 4 Belmont vs. No. 5 Indiana State or No. 12 Evansville (2:30 p.m., Friday, March 3)
This is Belmont’s first taste of Arch Madness. The Bruins, erstwhile of the Ohio Valley Conference, have exceeded expectations in their first season in the Missouri Valley thanks in large part to one man: Ben Sheppard. The senior guard led the team in minutes played and scoring and is their clear go-to guy. Belmont was one of the dominant teams in the OVC (along with Murray State). But postseason success has been elusive for this group. Despite consistently being one of the OVC’s top seeds, they haven’t won a postseason tournament since 2015. Barring a major upset, Belmont will likely take on Indiana State in a rematch of a fantastic 89-88 Belmont win on Feb. 22. The Bruins rallied from a 19-point deficit to win that game thanks to two Sheppard free throws with 2.5 seconds left.
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Predictions: Bradley has been a great story this season. And Brian Wardle, who took Wisconsin-Green Bay to the NCAA tournament in his final two years, is looking for his second trip to The Big Dance since taking over in Peoria. However, I have felt that Drake is the best team in the conference all season long. And after two straight heartbreaking losses in the conference title game, I think they will finally bust through. I think that Drake has the easier road of the two top teams, and Bradley will have its hands full with either Belmont or Indiana State in the semifinals. One of the top two seeds has won this tournament eight of the past 10 years. I’ll call for Drake cut them down this weekend.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has posted 12 of 15 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and you can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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