- #1-seed Loyola Chicago and #2 Drake will meet in the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title game on Sunday, March 7th (1:00 pm ET)
- The Ramblers have rolled their first two opponents, while Drake reached the semis by default and then beat Missouri State in the dying seconds
- The Ramblers are heavy favorites against a Bulldogs team still dealing with significant injuries
The 2021 edition of Arch Madness concludes this afternoon when #1-seed Loyola Chicago (23-4, 16-2 MVC) faces #2-seed Drake (24-3, 15-3 MVC) at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri (1:00 pm ET tipoff).
Drake, dealing with significant injuries, is a 7.5-point neutral-court underdog.
Drake vs Loyola Chicago Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Point Spread||Over/Under Total|
|Drake||+265||+7.5 (-106)||Over 126.0 (-110)|
|Loyola Chicago||-330||-7.5 (-116)||Under 126.0 (-110)|
Odds as of March 7th at FanDuel.
Ramblers Are Rolling
Loyola Chicago has steadily risen up both the polls and the analytics rankings this season. They started the year rated 55th at KenPom and 46th at Torvik, and are now ninth and 12th respectively.
Their rise isn’t due to “quality wins” so to speak; they are only 1-3 against teams in the top 75 on KenPom (losing to #12 Wisconsin, #67 Richmond, and splitting with today’s foe, #54 Drake). They have gained respect by absolutely obliterating the vast majority of their MVC opponents.
Eighteen of their 23 wins this season have been by double-digits and 11 have been by at least 20 points. Their suffocating defense is now rated first in adjusted efficiency at KenPom.
Their first two MVC Tournament games have carried on their regular-season dominance; they beat down Southern Illinois 73-49 in the quarterfinals and then rolled Indiana State 65-49 in the semis. The Sycamores were the only MVC team besides Drake to hand the Ramblers an L this year (a 76-71 home win on January 10th).
Center Cameron Krutwig continues to impress. He leads the team in scoring (14.8 PPG), rebounds (6.7 RPG), assists (3.0 APG), and blocks (1.2 BPG). In fact, he’s the only player averaging more than 8.3 points per game on a Loyola team that is otherwise characterized by its balance. After a quiet game against Southern Illinois (eight points in 21 minutes), he cranked it up against Indiana State, going for 18 points on 8-14 shooting with 11 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
In two previous games against Drake, he was held to just 10.5 PPG on 34.6% shooting, but he cleaned up on the glass, grabbing 24 rebounds in 67 minutes of action.
Drake Is Labouring
The Drake Bulldogs started the year a highly-publicized 18-0. Then injuries took their toll. Leading scorer, senior forward ShaQuan Hemphill (14.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG), and point guard Roman Penn (11.2 PPG, 5.5 APG) have been sidelined since February 10th and 21st, respectively. The team has gone an admirable 6-2 without Hemphill and 3-1 without both. But the first game that Hemphill missed was the first meeting with Loyola this season, and it ended in an 81-54 rout in Des Moines. (Fun fact: Drake is in Des Moines, Iowa.)
Impressively, the Bulldogs bounced back the very next night with a 51-50 OT victory, but no one who watched those two games would have come away thinking Drake was the stronger team as currently constructed.
Drake’s MVC Tournament has consisted of just one game so far, a thrilling 71-69 win over Missouri State on Saturday. Their quarterfinal game against Northern Iowa was cancelled due to a positive COVID test in the Panther camp. UNI forfeited and Drake advanced.
Sophomore guard Joseph Yusufu (12.1 PPG) has done his best to pick up the scoring slack since Hemphill went down. He is averaging an even 25.0 PPG in his last six, which includes back–to-back 30-plus point games against Evansville in late February and a 25-point performance last night, including the game-winner with less than three seconds to play.
Concerningly, Yusufu has scored just 13 points, combined, in 51 minutes against Loyola Chicago this season, going 5-16 from the field.
The Best Bet
The over/under has been set at 126.0. The first meeting between these teams far exceeded that (135 points) while the second went way under (101 points). I expect today’s game to look a lot more like the second. Loyola shot an uncharacteristic 63.8% from the field in the first meeting. Drake coach Darian DeVries ought to know that, with Hemphill and Penn both out, his team’s best chance is in a slow-tempo, low-scoring game. Yes, that plays into Loyola’s strengths, but it’s still Drake’s best shot.
Pick: Under 126.0 (-110)