Upcoming Match-ups

Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game Odds: Bradley Favored Over Valparaiso

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Mar 30, 2021 · 8:20 AM PDT

Ronnie Suggs Jr. Southern Illinois
Southern Illinois' Ronnie Suggs Jr. passes during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Bradley in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference men's tournament Friday, March 6, 2020, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • Bradley and Valparaiso, a pair of potential Cinderellas, meet in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship Game Sunday (March 8, 2:05 pm ET)
  • Bradley is trying to earn back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 65 years, while Valpo is trying to reach the Big Dance for the first time since 2015
  • See below for a preview and betting prediction

The No. 4-seeded Bradley Braves (22-11, 11-7 MVC) will meet the No. 7-seeded Valparaiso Crusaders (19-15, 9-9 MVC) in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship game on Sunday (March 8, 2:05 pm ET) in St. Louis.

Both teams were underdogs coming into the tournament, with Bradley going off at +700 to win the tourney and Valpo opening at +1500.

The Braves are looking for their second straight automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the Crusaders are hoping to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2015.

Bradley Braves vs. Valparaiso Crusaders Odds

Team Spread Total
Bradley Braves -3.5 (-115) Over 142.5 (-105)
Valparaiso Crusaders +3.5  (-105) Under 142.5 (-115)

Odds taken March 8th.

Northern Iowa entered the tournament as the prohibitive favorite, going off at -110 to cut down the nets in St. Louis. But once the No. 1-seeded Panthers got knocked out by Drake in the quarterfinals, the MVC tourney became wide open.

Enter the Braves, who took care of business in their quarterfinal against Southern Illinois. They then took advantage of the earlier upset by beating bracket-busting Drake to reach the title game for a second straight season.

Meanwhile, Valpo has won three games in three days, including a 74-73 overtime thriller in the quarterfinals against former NCAA Tournament darling Loyola-Chicago, to become an unlikely tourney finalist.

While both teams are a far cry from the National Championship odds, the MVC championship tilt is intriguing. Can the Crusaders close out their wild run with a title game win? Or will the Braves punch their ticket to a second-straight trip to the Big Dance? Let’s analyze each team’s chances and make a pick.

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Bracket

Fight Like a Brave

Perhaps it’s head coach Brian Wardle’s red shoes. Whatever it is, Bradley has suddenly become the team to beat come MVC tourney time. Bradley has won five straight in St. Louis dating back to last season, including Saturday’s 76-66 victory over Drake in the semis.


Darrell Brown scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the first half as the streaking Braves won for the seventh time in their last nine games. All five starters scored in double-figures in the win . Bettors that plunked down money on Bradley, which was probably limited to alums, are looking good Sunday. Plus, the MVC title game is a revenge game for the Braves; they just lost to the Crusaders 90-78 two weeks ago. I love Bradley in this spot.

The Last Crusade

Matt Lottich’s team has taken an Indiana Jones-esque adventure through the Gateway City.  A standout player at Stanford nearly two decades ago, Lottich has Valpo on the verge of qualifying for March Madness for the first time since coming over from the Horizon League in 2017. The latest victory on their epic run was an 89-82 triumph over Missouri State.

Javon Freeman-Liberty went off for 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the semifinal win over the Bears. But after three games, one of which went to OT, in three days, how much will Valpo have in the tank Sunday? It’s been a great run — but I’m fading the Crusaders.

The Pick

Thanks to major upsets, the 2020 version of the MVC Tournament has not disappointed. And while another upset could be brewing, I just don’t see it. The Braves have balanced scoring, a higher KenPom rating (No. 114 vs. No. 139) and fresher legs.

Pick: Bradley -3.5 (-115)

Author Image