Location: Chicago, Illinois
Conference: Missouri Valley
Head Coach: Porter Moser, 6th season (118-110 at Loyola, 222-211 overall)
Scoring Leader: Clayton Custer, 13.4 points
Rebounding Leader: Donte Ingram, 6.5 rebounds
Assists Leader: Clayton Custer, 4.2 assists
The reason why Loyola-Chicago has been so dangerous this season and upset No. 6 seed Miami is because they rarely miss shots, play great team basketball, and are stingy on defense as well.
Tennessee is playing the Ramblers of Loyola and not Miami because Donte Ingram, a 6-foot-6 guard who is a match-up nightmare, nailed a game-winning three as the clock expired in the first round against the Hurricanes. But the Ramblers did more than just hit a last second shot in their first game.
Loyola forced 16 Miami turnovers, hit 47.3 percent of their shots, and assisted on 19 of their 26 made buckets. And they prevailed with a 64-62 victory.
The Ramblers are riding an 11-game winning streak heading into their match-up with the Vols on Saturday. Loyola hasn’t lost since they dropped a 69-67 contest to Bradley back on January 31st.
Loyola and Tennessee have two common opponents this season. The Ramblers beat Wright State, the team the Vols just annihilated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 84-80 to open up the season. Then the Ramblers beat Florida 65-59 in Gainesville on December 6th. The Vols beat the Gators 62-57 back on February 21st.
What makes the Ramblers so dangerous? They’re a balanced team who can shoot lights out while also playing stellar defense.
On the year, Loyola has shot 50.6 percent from the field. That’s the fourth-highest team field goal percentage in college basketball. Their overall three-point shooting percentage, 39.7 percent, is 22nd in the country. Not only that, but they’ve totaled 538 assists on the year, which is the 33rd-best total in all of college basketball.
The Ramblers shoot well, but they don’t put up a ton of points as it were. They average 72.2 points per game, but they spread that around as well. Loyola has five players averaging double figures in scoring.
Loyola also plays solid defense. They’ve held opponents to an average of just 62.2 points per game, and that’s good for the fourth-lowest total in college basketball.
Tennessee will have their hands full against the Ramblers on Saturday. Loyola offers some tough match-ups with Ingram and 6-foot-9 forward Cameron Krutwig, and they’re efficient on both ends of the court.
The Vols may be facing the lower-seeded team in Loyola as opposed to Miami, but the Ramblers are far from a pushover. They proved that in the first round, and they’ve proved it all season. They’ve won 29 games and have done so in impressive fashion.
Loyola-Chicago is dangerous. And the Vols can’t rest on their laurels after handling Wright State so easily if they want to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.