The first few hours of the tournament brackets are going to be busted and if not for this game, it could be Oklahoma-Rhode Island or even Tennessee-Wright State. Selection committee is starting with a bang.
Miami comes in as the 6th seed from the ACC, which in my opinion is by far the toughest conference in basketball these days. Winners of 22 games to go with 9 loses they were in the thick of things in the ACC standings. Having a roller coaster year that saw Bruce Brown Jr. get injured and freshman phenom Lonnie Walker come out to an even better year than expected, the go to player for the Hurricanes has moved around.
The issue is Brown has officially been ruled out for the NCAA Tournament. Miami will lean on Lonnie Walker IV and Dewan Huell heavily. Having only 3 players that average double digit scoring is both a pro and con, no one person will carry them but also an array of players that can score.
More of a complete opposite team in Loyola-Chicago. Winners of the Missouri Valley Conference and an arguable At-Large selection if not for an automatic qualification at 28-5 overall. One of their victories came against a strong Florida team in Gainesville who was ranked 5th at the time. Having beat Illinois State by 16 last Sunday to become MVC Champs is how they earned their automatic bid.
Coached by Porter Moser in his seventh year, this is their trip to the tournament since 1985.In ’85 they made the Sweet Sixteen and lost to eventual runner up Georgetown. Fun fact, Loyola was the 1963 NCAA Tournament National Champions, where they beat the likes of Duke, and Cincinnati on way to their first and only title.
NCAA Men’s Basketball National Title Count
Miami – 0
Loyola-Chicago – 1
How Loyola Pulls off the Upset
Loyola will look for Clayton Cluster the 6-1 Junior to lead the pack of Ramblers to an upset bid. Cluster is shooting 52% from the field and 44% from three. One way to an upset in March is make a lot of shots, hard to stop a team when they’re shooting well. Loyola also plays great defense and Miami struggles against good defensive teams. That is a huge edge for Loyola. Slowing the game down is a key for the Ramblers especially on defense, make Miami use all the shot clock and staying in position.
Not only do I feel this game will be close, but also feel Loyola will pull through. Even Vegas somewhat agrees with that as the Hurricanes are only 2 point favorites, and in basketball that is not a lot at all. Loyola is also 19-9-1 against the spread showing they have been on the winning side of what handicappers have put down.
Loyola has been tested this year and they have come through, losing only 5 games with a very high quality win makes any upset bid feasible. They will live or die by their high shooting percentage, as they do not have a strong inside game.
Time: Thursday 3:15 PM EST
Arena: American Airlines Center
Location: Dallas, TX