The Loyola Ramblers (#11 seed) will be taking on the Michigan Wolverines (#3 seed) on Saturday evening with a 6:09 EST tipoff. The winner of this game earns a date with destiny in the NCAA National Championship game on Monday night against the winner of either the Kansas Jayhawks (#1 Seed) or the Villanova Wildcats (#1 Seed). If this tournament has taught us anything, the left side of the bracket has been unpredictable and exciting the entire tournament while the right side of the bracket has been a little more “chalk.” Despite the variance throughout the tournament, though, it may finally be midnight for the Cinderella team out of Chicago.
The crazy part of this matchup is their similarities. According to kenpom.com, which gives an advanced analysis of college basketball, Loyola ranks 60th in offensive efficiency, Michigan 31st. Loyola ranks 18th in defense, Michigan ranks 4th. They also play at slower, deliberate paces with Loyola ranking 315th in adjusted tempo and Michigan at 326th. Neither team is particularly adept to the transition game so you don’t need to expect a ton of points off of fast breaks. The Michigan Wolverines are -5 over the Loyola Ramblers on Saturday.
Ramblers Looking to Make History
While many have looked at Porter Moser’s team as underdogs, they have gone out and earned all of their success in the tournament thus far. Many predicted had they not won the Missouri Valley Conference championship, they would not be even in the tournament. Now, only a few short weeks later, they find themselves fighting to be the lowest seed to ever play in a National Championship. Loyola plays with a balanced attack, with all five starters averaging double digits in scoring. They are also a very experienced team, with the only underclass starter being 6’9” freshman center Cameron Krutwig. Speaking of Krutwig, though, they play relatively small, with most of their rotation standing shorter than 6’6”.
Michigan Looks to Keep Rolling Into Championship Game
Michigan has been on an absolute roll since winning the Big Ten tournament. In their last six games they have beaten Michigan State and Purdue (Big Ten Conference Tournament) and Montana, Houston, Texas A&M and Florida State in the NCAA tournament. They are led in scoring by 6’11” junior, Moritz Wagner. Wagner is averaging 14.4 points per game and 7.2 rebounds. This could be one of the biggest deciding factors in the upcoming game with Loyola. Wagner plays more like a stretch four, which at his height could cause serious matchup issues for an undersized Loyola team.
Wolverines Top Ramblers
While Loyola has had some stiff competition in the tournament, Michigan is a whole new caliber of team. While I don’t anticipate another 99 point outburst from the Wolverines, I do expect their defense and size advantage to be too much for the Ramblers. While most will be rooting for the underdog and hoping Loyola can keep the ride going, I see Michigan winning by close to ten points, covering the 5 point spread. While Loyola is a very fundamentally sound team that won’t shoot itself in the foot, I don’t think that they can match up with Michigan’s size and athleticism. I envision it being close for most of the game, but Michigan pulling away in the last ten minutes.
If you are looking at betting the point total, I would go with the under. Right now the betting line is at 129.5. As I have discussed throughout, these teams are very similar to each other in that they play a slower, more deliberate game while relying heavily on strong defense. In fact, Michigan has not allowed more than 72 points in a game which came in a blowout over Texas A&M where they won by 27 points. For the Ramblers, they have not allowed more than 68 points in their last five games. Due to their similar styles, both offensively and defensively, I envision this being a lower scoring affair. Bet on the Michigan Wolverines -5 over the Loyola Ramblers on Saturday.