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Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Odds and Value Pick

TBD() @ TBD()

  • Where: Scottrade Center. St. Louis, MO
  • When: March 2, 2017 5:05 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Wichita State (-420) Illinois State (+475) Loyola Chicago (+1500) Missouri State (+3000) Northern Iowa (+3000) Southern Illinois (+4000) Evansville (+7000) Indiana State (+10000) Bradley (+20000) Drake (+30000)

The Wichita State Shockers men’s basketball team is best-known for its Final Four run in 2013, punctuated by a much-ballyhooed pep talk from Tim Tebow. “You will remember this for the rest of your lives,” the controversial QB told the Cinderella upstart on an airport runway as they headed to Salt Lake City to take part in the Sweet Sixteen. “You are an inspiration to so many people.”

Four years later, Tebow might tell them not to take an underdog lightly themselves.

The Shockers are an almost-prohibitive favorite to win the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference tournament, beginning this week in St. Louis with its catchy tag-line “Arch Madness.” But co-MVC champ Illinois State enjoys the berth as #1 seed in the Gateway City. WSU is 27-4  after another marvelous regular season in which they tied the Redbirds in MVC wins, but are their minus-ML odds a product of actual supremacy or just name recognition?

The tourney will likely come down to a championship game between the two conference winners. However, there could be a few spoilers in the mix. Read ahead for MSB’s preview and best value pick. To bet on the game, visit the Bovada Sportsbook ($250 Free).

Wichita State – Poised for another run?

Wichita State Basketball Team 2017WSU has not won the Missouri Valley tournament since 2014, a season in which they won 35 straight games before losing a heart-breaker to Kentucky in the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament. Head skipper Gregg Marshall is an anomaly in major college sports, choosing to stay with the Shockers instead of parlaying sudden success with a mid-major into a big paycheck at a traditional power as so many coaches are prone to do.

2015-16 was a disappointment, as the team returned to the big dance only to be dispatched without winning a game. But the recruiting motherlode that comes with national media recognition is finally paying dividends. The Shockers are riding a 12-game winning streak with a foundation of teamwork, shooting and defense, having won all but four games in 2016-17 without a 12+ points-per-game scorer.

Freshman guard Landry Shamet is coming into his own, however, scoring 23 points against Missouri State in the squad’s most recent conference win. The teenager is shooting a hot 45.7% from beyond the arc and has been called “a steely-eyed missile man” by John Gasaway of ESPN.

Marshall directs a half-court defense that is one of the best in the country, and the squad ranks top-20 in scoring defense and an impressive 40+ rebounds-per-game average. But are they experienced and competent enough in the paint? Junior center Shaquille Morris is a load at 268 pounds, but his 20 points against Missouri State were a near season-high. Darral Willis Jr. is a quality 6’9″ power forward, but is inconsistent from the free-throw line and committed crucial turnovers in a November loss to Louisville.

WSU shows the signs of a still-developing team that could peak at exactly the right time (mid-March) but may not be as automatic in the MVC tournament as book-makers would have us believe.

Redbird revenge?

Coach Dan Muller’s Illinois State squad may be feeling overlooked. Having won 25 games in 2016-17, the ‘Birds are a #1 conference-tourney seed and considered at least a bubble-contender to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Senior forward Deontae Hawkins is scoring almost 15 points a game and shoots 47% from the field. Forward MiKyle McIntosh is a tenacious rebounder at 6’7″ and is scoring almost 13 ppg.

But the tourney odds can be traced back to February 4th, in which the kids from Normal wilted against the #2-seed Shockers in an abnormal 86-45 loss. Hawkins missed all but two shots, and the demoralized squad was sub-50% from the charity stripe while turning the ball over 19 times.

The Redbirds defeated WSU 76-62 in January, however. Cash players should be wary of “scoreboard shock” and its effects on betting odds and trends after a lopsided score. Should Illinois State and Wichita State meet in the MVC final, the scoreboard will read 0-0 at the outset…not 86-45. And if the WSU loss were the more recent of the two previous head-to-head results, the odds might look very different.

A windy-city sleeper?

Loyola-Chicago enjoys third-best odds to win the MVC tournament, and is helped by a bye in the first round followed by a relatively easy match-up with Southern Illinois. The Ramblers have beaten quality OOC opposition such as San Diego State on their way to an 18-13 record, and senior shooting-guard Milton Doyle is averaging 15+ points per outing. But the team has a losing record in conference play and has had a bummer of a month, losing six of its last eight games.

It is almost inconceivable that LUC could beat Illinois State and then Wichita State to claim a March Madness bid. A better pick is the Northern Iowa Panthers, who beat Oklahoma in November.

But hasn’t NIU lost its last three games? Yes…and the defense-minded ‘Cats won 10 of 11 games before that. In absence of a truly solid upstart, the streaky team with hefty-payout odds is the best long-shot pick.

All things equal (except the odds)

Place your bet on the #1-seeded Illinois State Redbirds to win the MVC conference tournament in St. Louis. Go with value and buck the trend.

Wichita State has a terrific chance to win the MVC tournament for the first time since 2014. But their inflated betting line is based on familiarity and reputation, not analysis.

Yes, Illinois State blew a gasket against the Shockers earlier in February. But the teams are 1-1 in head-to-head play, and the Redbirds’ top scorers are polished veterans. The #2 seed is assured of an NCAA berth already. The #1 seed is not granted such leeway, meaning that the Redbirds’ chip-on-the-shoulder motivation will be combined with hunger to play in the national championship tournament for the first time in almost 20 years.

Last but not least, a winning wager on Illinois State is good for your wallet. A Wichita State winner, on the other hand, pays a paltry pittance.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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