- The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament will take place in St. Louis, MO, from Thursday, March 4th, to Sunday, March 7th
- Top seed Loyola Chicago is seeking its second MVC championship in the past four seasons
- See the seeds, bracket, and full tournament preview, below
Editor’s note: tournament futures were not released prior to the beginning of the MVC Tournament. The table below will be updated if and when odds become available.
It took an unlikely sequence of events, but #20 Loyola Chicago is the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion. The Ramblers, the 2018 MVC champs, needed a missed free throw at the end of regulation, and a subsequent OT win over Southern Illinois in their regular season finale, plus an upset of Drake by Bradley to ensure a solo title, but that’s exactly what they got.
Now, Loyola will carry the top seed into Arch Madness, which begins Thursday, March 4th, and concludes Sunday, March 7th, with the championship game.
2021 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Odds
|Loyola Chicago Ramblers (1)||TBD|
|Drake Bulldogs (2)||TBD|
|Missouri State Bears (3)||TBD|
|Indiana State Sycamores (4)||TBD|
|Evansville Purple Aces (5)||TBD|
|Valparaiso Crusaders (6)||TBD|
|Northern Iowa Panthers (7)||TBD|
|Bradley Braves (8)||TBD|
|Southern Illinois Salukis (9)||TBD|
|Illinois State Redbirds (10)||TBD|
Odds unavailable as of March 4th.
All contests will be played at the Enterprise Center, and while the Ramblers are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament regardless of their showing this weekend, the rest of the conference, with the possible exception of Drake, will need need an MVC title to earn a March Madness berth.
Fade the Bulldogs
Speaking of Drake, the Bulldogs are a screaming fade despite being the second seed. Drake suffered two crippling injuries in February, losing both leading scorer Shanquan Hemphill and starting point guard Roman Penn to broken feet.
Horrible news for @DrakeBulldogsMB. Roman Penn's season is over. "Drake University junior point guard Roman Penn suffered a season-ending injury to his left foot… After evaluation by the team’s medical staff… it was determined the injury would require season-ending surgery."
— Harry Schroeder (@FatherHarry1) February 22, 2021
Penn has already been ruled out for the season, while Hemphill has an outside chance of returning at some point this weekend. Without their leading scorer, the Bulldogs are averaging nearly 10 points fewer per outing, but even if he returns it’s fair to question how effective he’ll be.
Drake's ShanQuan Hemphill (foot) will meet with his doctor on Wednesday, per Darian DeVries. If he's cleared, his status will then be "day-to-day".
Hemphill leads the team in both scoring (14.1 PPG) and rebounding (6.3 RPG).
Has not played since 2/10.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 1, 2021
Drake, ranked 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency by KenPom’s metrics, finished as the conference’s top scoring team, but aren’t likely to threaten Loyola with two of its top-three scorers either hurt or limited. They faced the Ramblers in a two-game set two weeks ago without Hemphill, and were promptly outscored by a combined total of 132-104.
Right now they project as an 11 or 12 seed in NCAA Tournament, but an early exit this weekend could squash their March Madness dreams all together.
The Dark Horse
Before we get to Loyola however, we must spend a little bit of time on Missouri State. The Bears look like the best dark horse candidate to potentially steal the conference title away from the Ramblers or Bulldogs, as they feature two of the Missouri Valley’s top-three scorers.
In this edition of KC's Mid-Major Minute, we shine the spotlight on @MSUBearsHoops star Isiaih Mosley!
The 2nd leading scorer in Division I, Mosley is making a strong case for @ValleyHoops Player of the Year! @maroonation @CoachDanaFord #MSUBears pic.twitter.com/a5rGAcwGn3
— Kevin Connors (@kevconnorsespn) January 22, 2021
Isiaih Mosley leads the conference in points per game (20.0) and is the only player in the MVC to average more than 17.4 points a night. Teammate Gaige Prim isn’t far behind, averaging 16.8 points and a conference best 9 rebounds per outing.
The dynamic duo led Missouri State to seven wins in their final eight games, and the number two scoring offense in the MVC. They rank second in total rebounding, and third in field goal percentage and assists.
Gaige Prim in the last two games combined:
— Wyatt Wheeler (@WyattWheeler_NL) February 27, 2021
They played Drake tough in both of their matchups this season, losing by 5 and 6 points, and will be a live ‘dog to upset the Bulldogs should they meet in the semis. The problem is even if they get past Drake, they’re not likely to challenge Loyola.
In two meetings with the Ramblers this year, the Bears lost by 26 and 20 points respectively, with Mosley and Prim combining for just 30 points total in the season series.
Ramblers Are For Real
Loyola was red-hot down the stretch, winning 14 of its last 15 contests en route to the regular season crown. They beat each team in the MVC at least once, sweeping the season series versus every opponent except Drake and Indiana State.
Going to enjoy this today, but we still got more work to do.
We're just getting started. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/jV0gddr1JO
— Loyola Men's Basketball (@RamblersMBB) March 1, 2021
They’re incredibly balanced on offense, as just one player (Cameron Krutwig) averages double digit points per game (15), but six others contribute at least 7 points per night. Seven of their top-eight scorers shoot at least 45%, with four of them knocking down over 50% of their looks.
For the third time in four years, your Loyola Ramblers win the MVC Regular Season Title! pic.twitter.com/su3C0aKTMp
— Loyola Men's Basketball (@RamblersMBB) February 28, 2021
The balanced attack is nice, but Loyola’s bread and butter is its defense. The Ramblers are the number one rated unit in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, and allow a nation low 55.7 points per game. They rank first in the MVC in points allowed, opponent field goal percentage, steals and free throw attempts, and surrendered more than 60 points in just one of 18 conference games.
Considering their dominance over Missouri State, and Drake’s injury concerns, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Loyola doesn’t claim another MVC title. They didn’t allow more than 58 points in any of their final 15 contests, and held the third, fourth, sixth and seven seeds to 48 points or less at least once during that stretch.
Pick: Loyola Chicago Ramblers
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