Drake (14-16) vs. Bradley (16-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 7, 7:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scottrade Center (20,948) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: FS Midwest. Home Record: Drake 9-6, Bradley 12-4. Away Record: Drake 4-7, Bradley 4-9. Neutral Record: Drake 1-3, Bradley 0-2. Conference Record: Drake 7-11, Bradley 7-11. Series Record: Bradley leads, 80-57.
GAME NOTES: For the third consecutive year, the Drake Bulldogs and Bradley Braves will square off in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Both of these schools finished the regular season with identical, 7-11 records in MVC action. The winner will move into the next round and take on No. 1 seed Creighton.
This will be the third meeting of the 2012-13 season and 138th in history between these schools. Both sides successfully defended their home court during the regular season, but the Braves hold a sizeable, 80-57 all-time series edge.
Drake won three games in a row before being dealt a 66-63 setback in its regular-season finale versus Southern Illinois. Ben Simons led the squad against the Salukis with 15 points and Jordan Clarke chipped in 12. The Bulldogs collected notable wins over Nevada, Evansville, Creighton, Green Bay and Indiana State (twice) before entering the postseason.
The Bulldogs' use a run-and-gun style that helped them average 72.1 ppg, but they also surrender 72.9 ppg. Simons is the only double-digit scorer for Drake, averaging 14.4 ppg. Simons hardly ever leaves the floor (34.8 minutes) and is among the MVC's most dangerous outside shooters, where he is connecting on 41.1 percent of his attempts (76-of-185). The Bulldogs have made 10 or more 3-pointers in a game 10 times this season and twice in the last eight games. Four other Bulldogs are averaging at least 9.2 points on the season. Clarke is the second leading scorer at 9.6 ppg and one of the top rebounders in the conference with 8.6 boards per tilt. Richard Carter is the top ball handler for Drake and has shown the ability to fill it up on occasion as well.
Bradley began its season with eight wins in its first 10 games, but went 8-13 the rest of the way to put itself just one game above the .500 mark entering postseason play. The Braves are coming off of back-to-back losses to Creighton (80-62) and Missouri State (64-56) which tied them in the conference standings with both Drake and the Bears. Bradley did not register any wins over any top 50 RPI teams, but it did take down Evansville and Indiana State.
For the Braves, Walt Lemon, Jr. has taken over the role of the go-to-guy with a team-leading average of 15.5 points per game which he accompanies with 3.5 apg and 2.2 spg. The 6-foot-3 guard has scored in double figures in all but one league game, while reaching at least 17 points in six of the last eight. Dyricus Simms-Edwards (12.5 ppg) is another double- digit scorer in the backcourt. Lemon and Simms-Edwards are also difficult to deal with on the defensive end as they are the top two players in the MVC in steals. Tyshon Pickett (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is the top producer in the frontcourt where the Braves are decidedly weak.
Although Bradley finished the regular season with a better overall record, Drake is the slightly better team. Creighton will be rooting against the Bulldogs on Thursday as it does not want to have to tangle with Simons and company for a third time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 71, Bradley 65
03/07 10:32:08 ET