Drake. Wow. What else is there to say, really. There was every expectation going into the MVC tournament final that the Bulldogs were in for a tough fight against the Redbirds of Illinois State. For a few minutes at the start of the game, when Illinois State got out to a strong start, it even looked like they could be in trouble. But then the Bulldogs put their feet on the throats of the Redbirds and it got ugly. They couldn’t miss a shot for much of the game. They would steal the ball whenever they felt like having it. Their defense was smothering and their offense was relentless, and they cruised to a 30 point win despite only being favored by 2.5. It was as complete and impressive as a game can be.
Watching the game, the biggest thing that struck me wasn’t the disparity in effort, or the fact that Adam Emmenecker is playing with as much confidence as a player can – he reminds me of how Kevin Kruger looked for UNLV in the tournament last year. What struck me is how much of a man-crush the announcers had for Drake. They could go for two seconds without gushing about how good this team is and how amazing their story is. It is a great story, but I think that their blind affection is a sign of an impending problem for the betting public.
The public loves the underdog, and they are going to be all over this team. The game hasn’t been over four 24 hours yet, and I have already heard or seen Drake called the next George Mason more than once. The public is going to jump on the Bulldogs and ride them like a rented mule. I’m not sure that they are going to be up to the challenge of covering inflated spreads. A couple of things concern me. First of all, they didn’t exactly finish the regular season on fire – covering just one of four, and losing three of their final six. More significant, though, is their schedule. Those three losses came in conference, and the MVC is not at their best this year. This could be the first year in a decade that the conference doesn’t get multiple bids if the dice don’t fall the right way in the next week. The announcers said at the end of the game that Drake knows how to play the big players from the big schools. That couldn’t be more wrong. The only two major conference teams Drake played are Iowa and Iowa State, and neither of those schools exactly redefined the sport of basketball this year. The only tournament locks that Drake played all year were St. Mary’s, and the Gaels won by six, and Butler in a BracketBuster battle of the Bulldogs win that was nice. Not exactly the record of a team that is tried and tested again the best of the best.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Drake and I will be pulling for them. I just strongly suspect that my search for tournament value will likely cause me to look very closely at whichever 12 or 13 seed ends up drawing Drake and being given the benefit of an overly generous spread.