Missouri State Bears -1.5 vs. Evansville Purple Aces – Missouri Valley Conference Quarterfinals
March Madness gets an early start tomorrow in St. Louis with the annual incarnation of “Arch Madness,” the aptly monikered Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. It has been a wacky season in the Valley, with a crazy series of tiebreakers and random seeding scenarios separating the six teams that finished tied with a 9-9 record in the Valley regular season. The Missouri State Bears and Purple Aces are two of those six teams.
Missouri State is the slight favorite, but I’d give the slight edge to Evansville in this matchup, and it is all about momentum. Missouri State enters the tournament having lost four consecutive games, including a loss to Evansville in overtime and a pair of blowout losses to Wichita State and Indiana State. They also lost their Bracket Buster matchup against a pretty pedestrian Old Dominion squad. Missouri State has some talent, particularly in all-MVC forward Kyle Weems, who led the Bears in both scoring and rebounding with 15.4 and 7.7 respectively.
Evansville has a star of their own in junior Colt Ryan. His 20.4 ppg trailed only conference player of the year Doug McDermott in the Valley. Although Weems is a ‘forward’ and Ryan a ‘guard’ they are very similar in size and could make for an interesting duel assuming this game is tight down the stretch.
If Missouri State is entering the game cold, than Evansville is the exact opposite. They have won five of their last seven games, but what makes the Purple Aces’ run most impressive is WHO they’ve beaten. In addition to the aforementioned win over Missouri State, they have also beaten Northern Iowa and Creighton (one of their losses was a 93-92 thriller against Creighton as well).
They have won three straight against Missouri State, and match up well against the Bears. Many MVC pundits have Evansville tabbed as the sneaky team that could upset the powers of Wichita State and Creighton and help the Valley sneak a third team into the Big Dance. I think that is getting just a little ahead of ourselves, but I do think they take the first step tonight and get the win over Mo State.
And just in case you wanted one more stat to help you back the Aces with confidence, here you go: Evansville is 16-5-1 ATS in their last 22 conference games. That’s enough for me. Give me Evansville to win straight up, but will also take the point and a half.