Since 1991, St. Louis has been the headquarters of the Missouri Valley Championship, and for one long weekend each year, the “Gateway to the West” turns into the “Gateway to the Dance.” Tonight, the journey starts for the Valley’s bottom-4 seeds—Illinois State, Indiana State, Valparaiso, and Evansville—who’re faced with the Everest-sized project of triumphing four games in just as many days to claim the MVC’s automatic bid. The hassle with that contrast is that human beings have indeed made it to the top of Everest—no team has ever gained 4 in a row to assert the MVC championship.
The quest to make history commences this nighttime on the Enterprise Center so one can serve as the stage for considered one of our favorite bets of the day. Specifically, we focus our interest on the second matchup of this night’s doubleheader among 7th-seeded Illinois State and tenth-seeded Evansville. At first glance, the road seems enormously huge for a neutral website online recreation among groups that had been relegated to the de-facto “play-in” round in a league overrun by way of parity all season. So, why ought to you consider a reasonably massive favored in a conference that’s been a crapshoot all yr? Because Illinois State and Evansville are both exceptions to the homogenous MVC make-up.
For starters, the purest purpose the Redbirds are gambling tonight is due to the fact they drew the fast quit of the stick in a three-manner tiebreaker for the fifth area, sliding them into the 8 seed by a system of removal. That’s no longer intended to be an excuse—after all, a 9-9 Valley document warrants a “Below Expectations” grade in my ebook, mainly when you keep in mind the high requirements bestowed upon them via most prognosticators heading into the 12 months. Minor accidents and complicated inconsistency, in the long run, doomed Illinois State, culminating inside the punishment of having to play in the unwanted Thursday night slot just to make it to the quarterfinals.
Putting all that aside, there’s no denying the Redbirds’ plethora of talent. Between Malik Yarbrough and Phil Fayne, one ought to argue ISU owns the most talented 1-2 punch inside the convention, that’s complemented via a cerebral combination defend in Keyshawn Evans and an athletic crop of wings and forwards, inclusive of Zach Copeland, William Tinsley, and Matt Chastain. And just last sport, the Redbirds’ pinnacle three-factor shooter, Josh Jefferson, rejoined that already robust helping solid after lacking the final 11 contests with a damaged collarbone. Even with Lucas Williamson returned for Loyola-Chicago, there’s an argument to be made that ISU’s top seven (inclusive of Jefferson) is the best inside the Valley.
So, with all that talent and capability, why must you trust a team that completed .500 within the league? As difficult it might be to ignore the five-game losing streak remaining month, just isolate the final three games of the season and let the ones function evidence for a way excessive the Redbirds’ ceiling is. ISU bounced again from a 23-point beatdown on the arms of Indiana State to knock off Valley co-champion Drake sixty seven-60 only a few days later. The Redbirds accompanied that performance up with every other impressive showing in opposition to Missouri State after which nearly stole one at Southern Illinois on Saturday. Against three of the Valley’s four little groups, the Redbirds proved that once absolutely locked in and engaged, they may be as desirable if now not better than the conference’s top contenders.
Tonight, they run into a wounded warrior in Evansville that’s hanging by way of the thinnest of threads. The Purple Aces fooled us in advance inside the yr with 3 gutsy performances against Drake, Loyola Chicago and Missouri State inside the first weeks of the convention season, propelling Evansville to a 3-2 start in league play. Since then, the truth has set in and what we knew to be an incredibly barren roster coming into the season has ultimately commenced to catch up to first-year head coach Walter McCarty. After that hot start, the Aces discovered the winner’s circle directly twice, each of which came against a battered and beaten Valpo crew that has been hamstrung by a couple of severe accidents all season.
To compound Evansville’s troubles, streaky sharpshooter Shea Feehan turned into lately brushed off from the crew, gutting the Aces of their pinnacle three-factor chance outside of Marty Hill. This may be in particular complex this night against Dan Muller, who gained’t hesitate to change back and forth between man and region defenses. With no Feehan, that’s one much less “region buster” the Redbirds want to worry about, which puts a significant burden on Hill, Noah Frederking and John Hall to make outdoor pictures a high clip.
If the Redbirds stayed locked in at the ultimate Evansville shooters, ISU’s advanced expertise would shine through on the other side of the ball. ISU dispatched Evansville both instances this season comfortably, in spite of William Tinsley lacking the first meeting and Josh Jefferson being sidelined for the rematch in Normal. Yarbrough and Fayne did enormous damage towards the Aces within the regular season, exposing the truth that they without a doubt have no one who can rise to them 1-on-1 defensively. The line opened at three. Five and is snowballing but, there’s nonetheless price at the contemporary charge of five.5. While we’d still propose laying 6, hop in now in case a few overdue steam pushes this unfold any higher before tip-off.
NORTH FLORIDA AT LIBERTY
3MW Pick: Liberty -11
The A-Sun event is heating up and the Flames of Liberty appearance poised to make a run to the championship sport of their inaugural convention season. Today they get North Florida, a squad that has won its closing seven games and break up the season series with the Flames. What makes UNF’s latest win against Liberty remarkable is the fact it did it without all-conference ahead Noah Horchler, who become these days kicked off the group. Horchler averaged almost a double-double this season and become one of the Ospreys’ pass-to men on offense. UNF is 3-zero without Horchler’s offerings, but that document is a tad deceiving. Liberty blew a thirteen-point lead with eight mins to play in the Feb. 23 matchup, the lowly Stetson Hatters competed for 40 mins in UNF arena and misplaced by 10, and North Alabama hung difficult the whole way within the Ospreys’ opening postseason matchup. Horchler’s absence can be felt on this recreation.
We can’t talk Liberty hoops without mentioning the p.C.-line protection. Ritchie McKay is a former Virginia assistant, and he added over Tony Bennett’s protective concepts when he got here to Lynchburg. The Flames use lengthy perimeter pieces like Caleb Homesley and Elijah Cuffee to hassle might-be shooters and close down opportunities inside the paint at the back of the efforts of huge man Scottie James. To beat Liberty on offense, you have to execute with precision and take care of the basketball; the Flames led the conference in turnover price this season and ranked in the top 60 inside us of a. UNF is something but positive-passed with the basketball, ranking 322nd in the country in turnover fee, 8th inside the A-Sun. Without one among its anchor portions on offense, shield play and ballhandling becomes all the more vital in this matchup.
The tempo conflict might be an important thing to look at on this sport. North Florida is going to try to ratchet up the tempo and look to attain at the run, even as Liberty plays a slow, half-courtroom fashion of offense. Liberty within reason proper at stopping transition chances and has won the pace struggle in the first two contests with UNF, maintaining the games to simply 69 possessions. When not running, UNF is trying to bomb it from deep, commencing shooters on the perimeter with in-and-out movement and the choose-n-roll. Horchler was a way, and away UNF’s best put up-up danger—without him, the Ospreys could be heavily reliant on Wajid Aminu, the best player however nowhere close to as powerful at drawing the defense. UNF shot 11/24 from downtown in its latest matchup with Liberty, that is, in the end, the critical thing element in opposition to a %-line. The Flames have allowed combatants to shoot only 32% from deep this season, so I’m willing to bet that performance changed into an anomaly.
On the opposite stop, Liberty will want to be efficient on offense to cowl a double-digit spread in what has to be a lower-possession game (that is except UNF by hook or by crook owns the tempo). The Flames scored directly 1.01 PPP in both games this season in opposition to UNF, driven through a mixed 9/39 taking pictures to mark from outside the arc. North Florida mixes in guy and quarter and has surely been quite stout defensively this season. UNF lets in the 1/3-fewest quantity of 3-factor try within u. S ., however, the Ospreys rank 345th in protecting rebounding rate. This is in which Liberty is going to reveal UNF. Horchler becomes the team’s first-rate rebounder and 2d-pleasant shot blocker—with out him, Scottie James, the nation’s eighth-satisfactory offensive rebounder with the aid of fee, goes to have an area day. James could be targeted early and often by Liberty’s particular offense and must be able to repeat his 16-point, 14-rebound overall performance from Feb. 23. And similar to at the defensive stop, assume Liberty’s 3-point capturing against the Ospreys to skew returned to the implying. The Flames are capturing 36.7% from deep this year, led through Lovell Cabbil’s 42.7%, a far cry from the 23% they’ve shot in two games against UNF.
UCLA AT COLORADO
Meyer’s Pick: UCLA +5.5
It’s crazy to assume that that is my very last exceptional bet of the everyday season, this marketing campaign has sincerely flown by way of. So permit’s try to quit on a high be aware, we could?
Colorado received eighty four-seventy three at UCLA on Feb. 6, however, the infant Bruins have grown up of late. UCLA has received its last 3 video games, beating Oregon State, Oregon and USC. The Bruins’ offense has appeared very sharp over that extend (small pattern size, however their offensive efficiency is fifth in CBB during the last 2.5 weeks, consistent with T-Rank), and a key cause why is that they’ve been slicing down turnovers. UCLA’s 19.9% turnover price is 10th inside the Pac-12, however the beyond 3 video games it’s at 14.1%.
What’s modified then? Starting protect Prince Ali has neglected the past 3 video games as he recovers from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and is not going to play again on Thursday. The junior has a 19.0% turnover fee. True freshman David Singleton, he of a 10.Zero% turnover price (61st within the united states of america), has started out in his location and has taken on a larger role alongside Jaylen Hands within the backcourt. Not simplest does Singleton take care of the ball, but he is also the team’s top shooter: He’s made 30 of his 62 3-point tries (his forty eight.4% 3P capturing ranks 12th in the u . S .).
More Singleton has honestly been better for the Bruins’ offense, a good way to be a stark distinction from the first time UCLA played Colorado this season, when Singleton performed simply 12 mins and tried one shot from the sphere.
Speaking of the primary matchup, Colorado, who ranks final in Pac-12 play in 3-factor capturing at 31.Three%, made thirteen of its 24 attempts from beyond the arc (fifty four.2%). That protected a career-first-rate sport from Shane Gatling, who scored 28 and made seven of his 9 attempts from 3 (Gatling is averaging 10.1 PPG and is shooting 33.Eight% from 3 on the season). Add in UCLA’s 28.6% mark from three, where the Bruins have shot 36.6% in Pac-12 play (6th), and it’s clean that this sport changed into dictated by using fluky performances from the outdoor, particularly via Colorado.
Colorado is one of the few Pac-12 teams that runs quite a whole lot simplest man-to-man (93.Five% of shielding possessions). The Bruins had been better in opposition to guy (fifty fifth percentile in terms of PPP) in comparison to area (35th percentile). UCLA, in the meantime, runs a 2-3 area defense, and the Buffaloes, given their terrible shooting, had been a whole lot worse in opposition to zones. This season, they rank inside the 76th percentile vs. Man and simply 33rd percentile vs. Region.
The Bruins have a massive size advantage on the Buffs. UCLA’s common peak ranks 2d in the united states of america, and it became in a position to accumulate a 36.1 offensive rebounding percentage in opposition to Colorado lower back in February. Colorado clearly is first in the Pac-12 in opposing offensive rebounding percentage (25.Eight%), but simply could not manage UCLA’s duration. Additionally, Colorado doesn’t generate a bunch of turnovers (16.Eight turnover percentage is eighth in Pac-12 play).
To give an explanation for why the above paragraph is so vital, because of this with hauling in offensive rebounding and limiting turnovers, UCLA figures to have the higher hand in range of photographs taken. The logic right here is extra pictures is definitely greater chances to attain. The Bruins in reality took 15 more shot attempts within the first assembly, that is why they “handiest” misplaced via 11 regardless of the large 3-point discrepancy between the 2 groups—and that was additionally with Colorado making 15 of its 16 FT attempts, a ninety three.8% with a purpose to be hard to duplicate this time around.
Both groups have plenty on the line, as they’re each nonetheless in contention to acquire a bye within the Pac-12 event, a bonus those groups should both use to seize the conference’s automated bid to sneak into the NCAA match. So I’m looking ahead to a difficult-fought tight sport for the duration of. Admittedly, I am a little apprehensive approximately how a young uptempo crew like UCLA will fare within the altitude, however I simply suppose this line is too high.