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Missouri Valley Tournament Betting Preview

After winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament the last two years the Northern Iowa Panthers are underdogs to make it a three-peat when the tourney tips off on Thursday.

Missouri Valley Conference tournament betting begins with what are essentially two play-in games. On Thursday No. 10 seed Bradley takes on No. 7 Drake, while No. 8 Southern Illinois goes up against No. 9 Illinois State. The winners get the daunting task of facing the top seeds in the quarterfinals, while the losers go home.

The top seed in the tournament are the Missouri State Bears. They're also the tourney favorite on the Missouri Valley Conference tournament odds at Bovada at +135. The Bears ended the regular season strong with six wins in their last seven games, including a win over Wichita State in their regular season finale that gave them the conference title.

Led by leading scorer Kyle Weems the Bears are the top-shooting team in the conference, which makes them so difficult to defend and of course to beat. That strong shooting could also turn out to be the Bears' weakness though, because they rely on it so heavily that their defense has lapsed. If the Bears go through a cold shooting streak at all in the tourney their defensive liabilities could lead to an upset loss.

The biggest threat to the Bears is No. 2 seed Wichita State. The Shockers are right behind the Bears on the Bovada Missouri Valley Conference tournament odds at +150. It looked like the Shockers had the conference wrapped up heading down the stretch, but they went 3-3 in their final six games to hand the title to Missouri State. The one saving grace for the Shockers in those losses was that they were all by five points or less, so they weren't getting blown out of the water.

The Shockers' once reliable scorers went cold down the stretch, and they need to find their touch again in the tournament to avoid an upset. Their opponents have been taking away the Shockers' fast-break scoring and forcing them to shoot from the outside. If Wichita State can't reignite their inside scoring they could come up short in the tournament.

The dark horses in the tournament are Northern Iowa and Indiana State. The Panthers had a horrible end to the season after a season-ending ankle injury to senior forward Lucas O'Rear. Without O'Rear the Panthers went 1-6 in their final seven games which included a loss to Creighton, their first tournament opponent.

The Sycamores reeled off five wins in their last six games to finish off the season, but only one of those wins (over Northern Iowa) came against a tourney contender. Indiana State did pull off an upset win against Missouri State earlier in the season so they can't be underestimated in the tournament.

Odds to win Missouri Valley Conference tournament, courtesy of Bovada

Bradley +2500
Creighton +800
Drake +1500
Evansville +650
Indiana State +500
Illinois State +1500
Missouri State +135
Northern Iowa +350
Southern Illinois +1500
Wichita State +150

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