Drake vs. Bradley prediction: Take the underdog

It’s not getting a lot of national attention, but the most important college basketball game being played Sunday will take place in Peoria, Ill., where Drake and Bradley face off for the Missouri Valley Conference’s regular-season title.

This game features two of the hottest teams in college basketball. Bradley has won nine straight games, and Drake comes to Peoria after winning 10 in a row. The two teams met Jan. 14, with Drake winning easily on its home court, 86-61. Expect a much closer game in the rematch.

During their 10-game win streak, the Bulldogs have beaten quality teams Indiana State, Southern Illinois and Belmont (twice). Drake isn’t just beating its opponents, the Bulldogs are obliterating them. Drake has won the past 10 games by an average of 16.6 points.

Based on KenPom’s rankings, Bradley has faced easier competition than Drake over the schools’ respective streaks. The average ratings of Drake’s opponents is 204.8. The average rating of Bradley’s opponents over its nine-game winning streak is 222.6. The Braves have won their nine games by an average of 11.6 points.

These two teams also match up evenly on paper, but something to consider is the Bulldogs have one of the best 3-point defenses in the country. In the first meeting, they held Bradley to just 8-for-31 (25.8 percent) from long range. That’s important because the Braves get 35 percent of their scoring from 3-point shots.

Betting on College Basketball?

I expect a much better effort out of Bradley in the rematch, but I’m backing a Drake squad that has won its past six games on the road by an average of 15.6 points.

The play: Drake, +2.5.

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