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Drake Bulldogs vs Loyola Chicago Ramblers
Betting Spread – UIC -4 vs DRAKE. Total 133

What a season from these two mid major programs this year. Loyola Chicago has been good for the past few years, but Drake has come on almost out of nowhere. This Drake team is filled with efficient scorers with the Seton Hall transfer Daniel Brodie hogging up the middle. This is an experienced bunch, but now run into the cream of the crop in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The big question coming into this game is how real is this Drake success? This Drake team is 15-3 ATS which is near tops in all of CBB and far and away the best based on this large of a sample. It’s clear that this team has performed above expectations this year on many fronts. Drake has had only one head scratching loss which was on the road at Valpo. A game where Drake clearly didn’t have it offensively. This is the only true blemish on their record. Of Drake’s 19 wins, 15 of them are by double digits. Most of these wins are against far inferior competition, so it’s tough to gauge true talent exacts. This match-up will be by far Drake’s toughest match-up of the year thus far. Instead of wasting time talking up this team beating up on inferior teams, let’s dig into teams Drake has even somewhat struggled with. It’s only three teams. Indiana State, Valpo and Missouri State. While they had a big win in the first match vs Indiana State, I’ll attribute this to above average shooting. They struggled for much of the 2nd game, despite pulling away late. Valpo was their lone loss and Missouri State gave this team fits twice. Interesting enough, these three teams were the 3 best defenses Drake saw this season. In these 6 games, Drake average 72.8 points per game which is nearly 10 points below their season average. Drake is a good offense, but they are also a good defense. Drake has given up more than 70 points only 4 times this year. 3 of those times were against the 3 teams previously mentioned with Valpo doing it twice. Before I go into the actual match-up, let’s talk on Illinois Chicago.

We know Valpo gave Drake the toughest time. UIC beat this Valpo team by nearly 40 points. Missouri State was beaten by nearly 50 points in two games by UIC. This brings us to Indiana State who is the only in conference loss for UIC. They also had a double digit win vs them also. I look at this game they lost though as a complete anomaly and here’s why. UIC is one of the most physical defenses in the country without fouling, but in that game 24 fouls were called on UIC which lead to 31 FTAs by Indiana State. The most UIC has conceded all year. Drake currently sits in the bottom 5% in all of D1 in drawing fouls. If Drake wins this, it will be from their shooting. This UIC team look acts as a poor man’s Virginia Cavaliers. They play outstanding defense, above average offense on a per possession basis and play at a snail’s pace. This will far and away be Drake’s toughest test of the season. Them being in their own gym will help, but truly how much?

While Drake has a better record, strength of schedule heavily favors UIC. Drake ranks 244th in this category as pen KenPom while UIC comes in at 142. From a match-up standpoint a few things stick out. UIC has a large edge inside the arc and Drake has a large edge beyond the arc. The only true negative you can say against UIC is their perimeter defense and Drake certainly has shooters to make them pay, but Drake really doesn’t take a lot of 3s. 3 pointers only make up 26% of their total points and this is good for 282nd in all of D1. Drake does a lot of cleanup work on the offensive glass but UIC is 12th best in D1 at defending the offensive glass. While Drake is an experienced bunch, UIC also has them out experienced. The best player in this game is on UIC’s side in Cameron Krutwig who will be a handful down low for Darnell Brodie. Brodie as previously mentioned is a Big East caliber athlete, but is certainly no stranger to fouling. Expect the offense to run through Krutwig and set up his guys for good looks. Drake will run the offense through Shanquan Hemphill who I’m sure the Ramblers will have plenty of different bodies on him. UIC should be able to take advantage of this Drake’s team aggressiveness on offense drawing contact and earning extra free throw attempts. This UIC team forces team to play uncomfortably on offense and puts a ton of pressure on offense.

While Drake has had a sensational year, this is a huge step up in class for this team. Drake beat this team in their gym last year and may be able to do so again, but while this Drake team is better this year, so is UIC. Drake would require 40 minutes of making tough shots and staying disciplined on defense. Previous games have shown that this Drake team tends to struggle vs better defenses in this conference and now they are seeing by far the best one in it. UIC is no stranger to these big games and I expect them to remind Drake why this is their division to lose. I’ll lay the small number with UIC in what should be a great game that gets played again on Sunday.

JJ’s Best Bet
UIC -4 -105 (FD) vs Drake

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