While top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor are the two favorites to win the national title and get all the publicity about possibly entering the NCAA Tournament unbeaten – this writer believes Gonzaga will but not Baylor – let’s talk about the chances of No. 25 Drake from the Missouri Valley Conference also entering the Big Dance without a loss as the Bulldogs are 17-0 overall and have been the best wager in the country this year at 14-1 against the spread on the NCAAB odds.
March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert AnalysisWill Drake win the national title? Of course not as the Bulldogs are +10000 long shots, but they certainly could get to the Final Four with the right draw in the Big Dance. Incidentally, Drake is a private university located in Des Moines, Iowa. The basketball program did reach the 1969 Final Four.
In that national semifinal, Drake trailed powerhouse UCLA 83-74 with one minute and 12 seconds remaining before Drake scored eight straight points to make the score 83–82 – alas the Bulldogs rain out of time and lost 85-82 to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Coach John Wooden’s Bruins. UCLA would go on to defeat Purdue title game, the school’s fourth of seven straight NCAA titles.
The only game that Drake hasn’t covered against the spread this season was as a 19-point home favorite vs. Illinois State last Sunday when Drake won 78-76 in overtime. Illinois State, which has no seniors, stormed back from 15 points down in the second half to send the game into overtime tied at 71, and the Redbirds scored the first bucket of the extra session to go up 73-71. But that was the last time they would lead. Drake struggled from the perimeter against Illinois State’s 2-3 zone and finished 4-for-30 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs came in fifth nationally in 3-point accuracy at 41.4 percent.
That was clearly a wake-up call as Drake hosted Illinois State again on Monday and rolled 95-60 behind a career-high 30 points from Tremell Murphy. The last 30-point game by a Bulldog was Nick Norton vs San Diego (12/23/18). The last in a regulation length game was Reed Timmer (2/14/18). He also set a career record for most three-pointers in a game with six. He grabbed eight rebounds for the Bulldogs and was +27 for them on the court.
When Drake took a 20-point lead early in the second half, it marked the 12th game this season that Drake has had a 20-point or greater lead and the fourth time in conference play. ShanQuan Hemphill added 18 points for the Bulldogs, who improved to 17-0 for the season and 8-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference with its fourth straight two-game sweep. Drake’s 35-point win tied for its fourth-biggest margin of victory in an MVC game in program history.
Drake had gained its spot in the Associated Press poll earlier Monday, the program’s first appearance in the Top 25 since March of 2008. That 2007-08 season also is the last time the Bulldogs started 8-0 in the Valley.
“It’s a nice recognition for our guys and the work they’ve put in and how they’ve represented the school,” Drake head coach Darian DeVries said of the Bulldogs’ ranking. “I’m happy for them and what they’ve done to this point.”
The Bulldogs’ program has risen considerably in the past three seasons under Darian DeVries. Since the 20-year Creighton assistant coach took over in Des Moines, Drake is 60-24; it didn’t win 60 games total in the previous five seasons combined.
Drake’s 17 straight wins are the second-most in program history and ties for the third-longest by any of Iowa’s four Division I programs. In addition, Drake’s 17 straight wins equal the fifth-best start ever by a Missouri Valley Conference school sharing 17-0 starts by Kansas State (1918-19) and Missouri in both 1919-20 as well as 1920-21.
Only Gonzaga and Baylor are also unbeaten as of this writing. That said, we can see Drake losing one of two games this weekend at Valparaiso. The teams play at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.
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