Valparaiso returns from its finals break Saturday to host Missouri State. The Bears struggled in November, but a strong first half of December turns this one into an intriguing matchup.
What you should know about Missouri State (4-6, No. 197 KenPom):
The Bears have been playing great basketball this month. They are 3-2 in December, with wins in three of their last four games. They won at Oklahoma State and also defeated an Oral Roberts team that should contend for the Southland title. The losses came in tight games to Utah State and Tulsa.
Missouri State is a defense-first team that keeps its opponents off the offensive glass. 6-foot-6 forward Camyn Boone is one of the nation’s best defensive rebounders despite his size. Boone leads the Bears with 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
One of the Bears’ x-factors is junior guard Dequon Miller, a junior college transfer. Miller is averaging 14.5 points over the last four games, and 11.0 points this season. However, he is shooting just 28.1 percent from the field. More often than not, Miller finds a way to get his points. Keeping him from doing so efficiently will be key for Valparaiso.
What you should know about Valparaiso (9-2, No. 31 KenPom):
Valparaiso is playing on its home floor for the first time since Dec. 3, a nice refresher after having the week off for finals. The Crusaders’ defensive dominance has continued, and they now rank No. 6 in the nation in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Valparaiso will have a significant size advantage, as Missouri State has only one man taller than 6-foot-6 who receives consistent playing time. (That is junior forward Jordan Martin, who plays 10.3 minutes per game.)
Even with Boone producing well, the Bears struggle to score inside the arc at 46.3 percent. Interior defense is also an area where the Crusaders excel. Missouri State relies on two-point shooting and foul shooting to get its points. Valparaiso is in position to limit Missouri State’s good looks from two, so keeping the Bears off the foul line will be crucial.
One fun fact for this game: With a win, the Drew family will have 1,000 total head coaching victories.
How to watch, listen, stream and bet:
Start time: 1:30 p.m. CT
Radio: The Source 95.1 FM
Line: Valparaiso -14.5
Sagarin: Valparaiso -15.5
KenPom: Valparaiso 73, Missouri State 58 (93%)