During finals week for a lot of college basketball players, we have one test question. Can any Missouri Valley Basketball Conference team challenge Loyola Chicago for the league title? As we’ve watched one Valley team after another disappoint during the non-conference schedule, it seems likely that Loyola is a clear favorite over every other conference foe.
While Drake was the official preseason favorite and many prognosticators viewed this as a four-team race, the body of work seems to indicate that the Ramblers are likely to run away with the league title.
Injuries have played a role in the slow start by some of the teams and some new players have not achieved up to early expectations. The Ramblers are 18th in the latest National Evaluation Tool rankings and currently sit 24th in KenPom. Only one other MVC team is in the top 100 and that is the walking wounded Drake Bulldogs.
Loyola has posted wins over power conference foes Arizona State, DePaul, and Vanderbilt. Their only two losses were to Michigan State (by two points) and nationally-ranked Auburn. Drew Valentine’s team is now receiving votes in the nationally-recognized polls.
Who can challenge the Ramblers? The answer to that test question lies somewhere in a couple of trainers’ rooms and in the general psyche of several talented players. Preseason polls had the Ramblers, Drake, Northern Iowa and Missouri State listed practically as co-favorites for the Valley crown. Today, LUC looks like the king of the hill.