Drake is the most underrated team in college basketball
Every March, a mid-major college basketball team inevitably shows up and spoils the postseason hopes, dreams, and aspirations of traditional powers. Most of the time, this is the culmination of years of team-building, finding the right puzzle pieces overlooked by major programs, and using them the right way.
Drake has been unbeatable
There’s perhaps no better example of this than what we’re seeing from the Drake Bulldogs. The Missouri Valley Conference squad has started the season on a 13-0 tear that has included a season-opening, 80-70 drubbing of Big 12 stalwart Kansas State. 11 of their 12 wins since then have come by double-digits, including 73-55 and 86-55 victories over a Southern Illinois team that was previously 7-1 on the 2020-21 campaign.
The Bulldogs have plenty of experience on the roster, which includes four seniors and five juniors. Their emergence shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise, as the team won 20 games a season ago and went an impressive 14-2 at home.
The Bulldogs have been lights out on offense
How have they gotten off to such a torrid start? Simply put, they’ve dominated on both ends of the floor. On offense, Drake has shot better than 53% from the floor and an even 43% from three-point range while recording assists on nearly half their baskets. The Bulldog defense has held opponents to a 38.8% clip from the field, and opponents have converted less than 32% from deep. They do the dirty work, too, and have out-rebounded opponents by nearly 10 boards per contest.
The Missouri Valley Conference is the real deal
The Missouri Valley Conference is no stranger to Cinderella teams. Loyola Chicago famously made the Final Four a few seasons ago, and the league was where Wichita State initially rose to prominence before departing for the American Athletic Conference.
It’s a tough group, and Drake will certainly have to work for a conference championship. Loyola Chicago is 7-2 and gave No. 12 Wisconsin a competitive game earlier this year, while Missouri State made up for a late start by winning six of its first seven contests. Southern Illinois is 7-3 even after last weekend’s sweep, and 6-3 Bradley dropped a 54-53 heartbreaker to No. 14 Missouri just a few weeks ago.
Drake could be headed to the Big Dance
Still, it certainly seems like the road to a Missouri Valley Conference title goes through Des Moines, Iowa. The Bulldogs have not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, when they were knocked off by Western Kentucky in overtime. However, not only do the Bulldogs seem to have what it takes to make it back to the Big Dance, they may also be talented enough to win a few games and make their first Sweet Sixteen since 1971.