All previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big Ten
Date: Saturday, March 31
Time: 6:09 pm Eastern
Location: San Antonio, TX
Loyola is the definition of a Cinderella in the NCAA tournament: a double-digit seed in the Final Four. They follow in the footsteps of LSU (11-seed in 1986), George Mason (11-seed, 2006), VCU (11, 2011), and Syracuse (10, 2016). None of those teams made it to the finals; will the Ramblers be the first?
Strength: #11 Strength: #61
Pomeroy: #7 Pomeroy: #30
Offense: #31 Offense: #60
Defense: #4 Defense: #18
BPI: #12 BPI: #42
LRMC: #13 LRMC: #42
Consistency: #263 Consistency: #277
Schedule Strength: #35 Schedule Strength: #118
Tempo (Pomeroy): #326 Tempo: #315
AP Final Poll: #7 AP Final Poll: #27
AP Pre-season: #39 AP Pre-season: #NR
SportsRatings Genetic Model:
Model Rank: #12 Model Rank: #42
Michigan has a big edge in the power ratings, but those ratings have had little impact on Loyola's success. Strength still has the Ramblers at #61, while BPI and Pomeroy weigh recent games more. Apparently Pomeroy weighs recent games about twice as much as the BPI, as the Ramblers are up to #30 in Pomeroy and just #42 in BPI. LRMC doesn't update past Selection Sunday.
Michigan's defense has a huge edge over Loyola's offense, but the Rambler defense is superior to the Wolverine offense, so it'll be a game, even on paper. Both teams play good defense and slow tempos, so look for another low-scoring game here.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (10): (11)UCLA+OT, @(10)Texas+7, @(3)Michigan St.+10, (5)Ohio St.+12, =(3)Michigan St.+11, =(2)Purdue+9, =(14)Montana+14, =(6)Houston+1, =(3)Texas A&M+27, =(9)Florida St.+4
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (3): =(2)Purdue+9, =(3)Texas A&M+27, =(9)Florida St.+4
- Wins vs. Final Four (0): none
- Losses to tournament teams (4): @(2)North Carolina-15, @(5)Ohio St.-9, (2)Purdue-1, @(2)Purdue-4
- Other losses (3): =LSU-2, @Nebraska-20, @Northwestern-9
Overview: If there's a team that has momentum, it's Michigan. They won their last 9 game of the season including a Big Ten tournament championship. They only defeated one Sweet Sixteen team, Purdue, but they also lost twice to the Boilermakers. Michigan's slow tempo keeps scoring down but they still have 3 players who average double figures in a balanced attack. Charles Matthews led with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Montana, where the team's extra-week layoff didn't seem to hurt or help. They needed a last-second shot by Jordan Poole to top Houston, but nothing of the sort against Texas A&M as they beat the Aggies in a rout, with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman putting in 24. The Florida State game was a lot closer as Michigan shot just 39%, but Matthews managed 17 points in the win.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (6): (14)Wright St.+4, @(6)Florida+6,=(6)Miami FL+2, =(3)Tennessee+1,=(7)Nevada+1, =(9)Kansas St.+16
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (2): =(7)Nevada+1, =(9)Kansas St.+16
- Wins vs. Final Four (0): none
- Losses to tournament teams (0): none
- Other losses (5): @Boise St.-34, @Milwaukee-17, @Missouri St.-5, Indiana St.-4, @Bradley-2
Overview: Loyola-Chicago had some terrible losses earlier in the season: falling by 34 to Boise (game 8) and by 16 to 16-17 Milwaukee (game 12). But since losing 3 of 4 around the New Year, it's been smooth sailing behind a strong defense. After upsetting Miami behind leading scorer Clayton Custer's 14 points, the Ramblers are still undefeated against the tournament field. Against Tennessee it was sixth man Aundre Jackson leading with 16. And maybe the Ramblers really do have an unfair advantage with Sister Jean, as they won their third nail-biter against Nevada behind Marques Townes' 18 points and clutch late 3-pointer. The Ramblers are clearly peaking at the right time as they played their best game of the season against Kansas State, with Ben Richardson scoring 23; after winning three tourney games by a total of 4 points they beat the Wildcats by 16.
Game Analysis: The 11-seeds that have made it here before lost by 11, 15, and 8 points; 10-seed Syracuse only lost by 17 points in 2016. The 8-point loss was to an 8-seed (Butler), with the other three lost to a 2, a 3, and a 1-seed. So if history is any guide, when a double-digit seed takes on a top-3 seed in the Final Four, the double-digit seed loses by double digits.
Both these teams have momentum dating back well before the NCAA tournament. Michigan won 5 in row before the Big Ten tournament, in which they won 4 more games, for a total win streak of 13 games; Loyola won 7 before the 3-game Missouri Valley Conference tournament, for a total of 14 straight games.
Michigan by 6
Power rating: spread
Michigan by 8.1
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
The early line from Vegas is 6 points, the 5th straight line that favored Loyola's opponent. Our Strength power rating has favored their opponent each time, too. On paper, Michigan wins about 2/3 of the time.
Bottom line: We haven't been picking against Loyola each time like the oddsmakers. In fact, we picked them to win three times: the opener against Miami, against Nevada, and against Kansas State—every round except the 2nd round. And we picked Michigan each round, so our record with these teams in the tournament is 7-1.
So we aren't just picking against Loyola reflexively since they're the lower seed. But history is against them. What they've done up to now has precedent, and they'd be going into uncharted territory with a win. Against a different kind of team they would have a better chance, but Michigan plays their game—slow tempo, great defense—and plays it better than they do. Those two components should keep the game close and give the Ramblers a chance for upset. And they're playing their best basketball. But Michigan is playing their best, too. One of these teams will have their winning streak come to an end, and like the other 11-seeds in this situation, that is probably Loyola.
Final prediction: Michigan 64, Loyola-Chicago 53
More previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule.