Drake Lands March Madness Berth, Opens As Underdogs

Posted By Russ Mitchell on March 15, 2021

Drake waited a full week to see if its paw would slide into a glass slipper, but the Bulldogs got an invite to the March Madness ball Sunday night.

The Bulldogs (25-4) are an 11 seed in the West bracket and will face old conference foe Wichita State (16-5) in the First Four. Tip-off is 5:27 p.m. Thursday at Mackey Arena, home of the Purdue Boilermakers. TBS will carry the game.

The Shockers are a 2-point favorite at DraftKings and the sportsbook places the total at 140.5. The numbers will shift, so keep checking back with PlayIA.com for the latest March Madness odds.

Drake March Madness odds

 

The Wichita State-Drake winner will emerge from the First Four to face No. 6 seed USC in the first round on Saturday. Gonzaga is the region’s No. 1 seed and Iowa sportsbooks like the state of Washington’s Bulldogs to win the national championship. Iowa is the No. 2 seed in the West and looms as a potential Sweet 16 opponent for Drake.

Drake is an underdog at March Madness

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The Bulldogs caught a tough opponent in the First Four.

Betting background on Wichita State

As First Four teams, both Drake and Wichita State were among the last four at-large teams to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. In fact, Drake received the tournament’s last at-large bid.

The regular-season champion Shockers stumbled 60-59 to Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference semifinals Saturday. Wichita State was picked seventh in the conference preseason polls. Sophomore guard Tyson Etienne leads the team in scoring at 17 points per game. Senior guard Alterique Gilbert is second at 10.3 ppg.

The Shockers are coached by Isaac Brown, who was named interim head coach on Nov. 17 after Gregg Marshall’s resignation. WSU exchanged Brown’s interim tag for a five-year contract on Feb. 26.

Betting background on the Drake Bulldogs

Drake’s 25 wins are the third-most in program history, and its 15 Missouri Valley Conference wins equals a school record. The Bulldogs didn’t start the season with high expectations, however.

The league’s coaches, media and athletics communications staff picked the Bulldogs to finish seventh in the MVC’s annual preseason poll. Drake seemed to state its case for a higher finish with a major-conference, 80-70 win at Kansas State to start the season. The Wildcats limped to a 9-20 record, however, and the NCAA Selection Committee kept Drake on the bubble because of its non-conference schedule.

Drake collected a pair of wins over 14-11 South Dakota of the Summit League but:

  • Omaha and Air Force both finished with 5-20 records
  • North Dakota finished 9-17
  • Chicago State finished 0-9 and canceled much of its season
  • St. Ambrose (NAIA) and McKendree (NCAA Division II) aren’t Division I foes

Conference performance makes NCAA case

Drake and Loyola Chicago pulled away from the pack in the Missouri Valley Conference and the Bulldogs used an 18-0 start the season to crack the AP top 25. The Bulldogs led the MVC in scoring and were second in scoring defense despite losing leading-scorer ShanQuan “Tank” Hemphill and first-team All-Valley point guard Roman Penn.

The Bulldogs hope to have Hemphill back in time for NCAA Tournament action.

Coach Darian DeVries earned MVC Coach of the Year honors and he’s a Naismith National Coach of the Year semifinalist.

Drake’s last appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 2008 as a No. 5 seed. They fell 101-99 in overtime to No. 12 Western Kentucky on a 26-foot desperation shot by Ty Rogers.

Photo by Jeff Roberson / AP
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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