All previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule
Nevada Wolf Pack
Conference: Mtn. West
Date: Thursday, March 22
Time: 7:07 pm Eastern
Location: Atlanta, GA
Neither team was supposed to be here, but Loyola pulled off two upsets, and Nevada engineered two amazing comebacks. Which team's luck is going to run out?
Strength: #26 Strength: #63
Pomeroy: #23 Pomeroy: #36
Offense: #6 Offense: #63
Defense: #110 Defense: #27
BPI: #31 BPI: #48
LRMC: #18 LRMC: #42
Consistency: #126 Consistency: #272
Schedule Strength: #68 Schedule Strength: #129
Tempo (Pomeroy): #105 Tempo: #318
AP Final Poll: #24 AP Final Poll: #27
AP Pre-season: #36t AP Pre-season: #NR
SportsRatings Genetic Model:
Model Rank: #26 Model Rank: #42
Looking at the numbers, Loyola is more balanced and defensive-minded, while Nevada is all offense. The latter could explain how they are getting so far behind (bad defense) but then able to roar back to win (great offense). Loyola has been able to stick close to their opponents to the end—giving them a chance to upset—by playing a slow tempo with strong defense. Nevada just beat two teams that played slow tempo, but they also fell behind by a lot in the process; Loyola's defense isn't nearly as good as those teams were, and their offense is about the same. So what should happen in the game? Your guess is as good as mine.
Loyola ranks quite a bit better in Pomeroy than Strength, since the latter doesn't weigh recent games. For the 2nd half of the season Loyola is #31 in Strength, Nevada #35.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (6): (7)Rhode Island+7, (12)Davidson+13, (16)Radford+15, (11)San Diego St.+25, =(10)Texas+OT, =(2)Cincinnati+2
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (0): none
- Losses to tournament teams (3) @(3)Texas Tech-OT, =(6)TCU-4, @(11)San Diego St.-5, =(11)San Diego St.-17
- Other losses (3): =San Francisco-2, @Wyoming-OT, UNLV-8
Overview: Four of Nevada's five best wins are over 10-seeds or worse, suggesting their ability to beat good teams is lacking and they're in for a short run. Can they step it up to beat a 2-seed? Since starting point guard and #5 scorer Lindsey Drew was lost for the season (8 games ago), the Pack have been about 4 points worse. Their offense still boasts solid 3-point shooting and doesn't turn the ball over; Caleb Martin leads with 19.1 ppg and Jordan Caroline adds 17.9. Against the Longhorns Martin hit three 3's in overtime to seal the win. In the huge Cincy comeback, he led with 25 points.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (4): (14)Wright St.+4, @(6)Florida+6,=(6)Miami FL+2, =(3)Tennessee+1
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (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.
Game Analysis: Why does Nevada keep falling behind, big? The answer must be their poor defense. How do they keep coming back, against great defenses? Obviously their offense is good, but then, why don't they score those points earlier, rather than needing a monster comeback? It seems that Nevada's offense works best when they take risks. When they have nothing to lose—being down so far—their offense shines. During the normal course of the game they play more conservatively on offense. When they need to come back, or later when the game is on the line, that's when they're great.
Loyola has been more consistent during the course of their games, sticking close enough to get a clutch jumper at the end. If this happens against Nevada, then the Wolf Pack might never go into their risky-offense mode and take it to the next level. Loyola would still have a chance to win at the end, but can they get lucky three times in a row?
It seems that sticking close to your opponent and getting lucky at the end is a better strategy than falling behind by double digits and having the mount a huge comeback. It also looked like Nevada was over-celebrating being in the Sweet Sixteen—as if they'd accomplished their goal. Loyola's players talked about how they want more.
Nevada by 2 1/2
Power rating: spread
Nevada by 5.2
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
Nevada is the the favorite, meaning Loyola will be the underdog for their third straight game.
Bottom line: What a mess. Who knows what dynamic this game will follow, given the craziness in both teams' first two tournament games. We can only assume—more craziness. That would mean Loyola getting the upset, I suppose.
Final prediction: Loyola-Chicago 71, Nevada 70
More previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule.