Wichita State has taken just about any drama that the Missouri Valley might have had down the stretch out of things and nine others teams are left playing fairly irrelevant basketball, at least as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned. Unless the Shockers are upended in the Conference Tournament, there will be just one team from the MVC in The Big Dance. Missouri State, however, is seeking its best finish since the 2010/2011 season when it won its last Valley Regular Season Conference Championship. The Bears sit 8-8 in the conference and in a tie for third place with Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. With a game at Wichita State to finish up the regular season this weekend, the Bears will be hungry to come out and get a win to tomorrow to secure a .500 conference mark. The Loyola Chicago Ramblers visit JQH Arena as 7.5-point underdogs.
Missouri State has improved on last year’s seven win MVC team with an improved offense that averages 71 points per game led by Jamal Gulley and Marcus Marshall that combine to average nearly 30 per game for the Bears. But Marshall has been out indefinitely after a tear of his meniscus. The injury hasn’t slowed the Bears down. They are coming off of an impressive 11-point victory of Indiana State, which included the third straight double-digit scoring effort from freshman guard Austin Ruder. Ruder is averaging almost nine points per game from the guard spot, including an over 42 percent clip from beyond the three-point arc.
The Bears will get a Rambler team that hasn’t had the best of luck on the road lately. Loyola has not won a single conference road games all season and will play its final roadie on Tuesday. The Ramblers are tied with the super young Evansville team for last place in the conference at 4-12 in their first season as a member of the Missouri Valley. Milton Doyle has been the brightest spot for Loyola with over 15 points per game in his freshman season. He will look to finish the season strong and avenge last game’s 2 for 8 shooting performance against Bradley.
Missouri State is the better side in a spot where it would love to have a win to get that ninth win in the conference. Loyola will be motivated to get a road win but look to back Missouri State in the first half.
Free Pick: Missouri State First Half -4