Southern Illinois Preview — 2/25/2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017 7:00 p.m.
SIU Arena, Carbondale, Ill.

After Loyola’s devastating 67-61 home loss to Southern Illinois on February 4, it looked like the Salukis (then 8-5 in conference) might cruise to a third-place finish. But Barry Hinson’s unpredictable team followed their road win at Loyola with a dismal stretch—a loss at UNI where the two teams combined for 86 points (and SIU on the short end with only 41 points), a home loss to Evansville, a 19-point home loss to Wichita State, a win at Indiana State, and another loss scoring in the 40s at Illinois State. It leaves the two teams, Loyola and SIU, stumbling and deadlocked at 8-9 in the standings as they face each other on the final day of the regular season.

A Loyola win on Saturday means a lot of really good things for the Ramblers: It means a .500 conference record for the first time in the MVC and for the first time since 2006-07. Loyola has already clinched at least a 5th place finish, already their best since joining the MVC, but a Loyola win and a UNI loss hosting Illinois State would give Loyola a 3rd place seeding for Arch Madness. And a win on Saturday night would allow Loyola to capture their 2nd 20-win season in the past three years if they can get a W in St. Louis.

The Salukis like to dictate the pace, and get their opponents into a plodding half-court game, where an effective 2-3 zone tends to drive their opponents nutty and frustrated. Generally, keeping the ball from going inside to Sean O’Brien is the best way to limit the Saluki offense. O’Brien smoked Loyola for 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field in their last meeting, while point guard Mike Rodriguez and forward/center Thik Bol made a combined 17 trips to the free throw line. That can’t happen again in the rematch if the Ramblers hope to win. Loyola needs to keep SIU off the free throw line, deny the ball inside to O’Brien, and improve on their 27.8% three-point shooting from their last meeting.

The Salukis have generally been a below average team at home, managing only a 4-4 record in conference and 9-6 overall at home. While the Ramblers have a terrible record on the road in conference (2-6), almost all those games have been within one basket from a win: a four-point loss at Drake, a double-overtime three-point loss at Northern Iowa, a one-point overtime loss at Missouri State, a two-point loss at Evansville, and an in-and-out buzzer-beating three-pointer missing by millimeters resulting in a two-point loss at Illinois State. That’s FIVE road conference games—all losses– decided by a total of 12 points and three overtimes. Getting a win at SIU, getting a .500 record in conference for the first time, and possibly getting a 3 seed at Arch Madness would go a long way toward forgetting about those five tough road losses.

Loyola game notes:

Southern Illinois game notes:

TV/Streaming video: ESPN3 ( )

Vegas odds: Loyola by 1

Jesuit Jam Preview: Loyola vs Drake — 2/22/17

Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

If you made a movie about Drake’s 2016-17 season, no one would believe it could really happen. The Bulldogs have been through an odd coaching change and have been the streakiest, most unpredictable Jekyll and Hyde team in the MVC this year– perhaps in all of college basketball. Drake began the season 1-10, their head coach resigned after the first seven games, they lost to non-D1 Alaska Anchorage, and their only win came against non-D1 Simpson College. Then they won two D1 games in a row, scoring over 100 in each, while kicking off a 6-4 stretch which saw them rise to third place in the MVC. They’ve followed that stretch with their current seven game losing streak.

Loyola began the conference season with a totally uncharacteristic, mystifying, insane 102-98 loss against Drake in Des Moines, in which the 2-10 Bulldogs beat the 10-3 Ramblers, who had up until then allowed the opposition an average of just 63.5 points per game. Loyola should be favored to win in the rematch, as a little frustration/revenge for the early season loss might be evident. The Bulldogs are also a terrible road team. Drake is 1-10 on the road this season, with their only win a 72-71 squeaker at Missouri State, and their average road margin of loss at 12 points per game. The Ramblers should have a large and energized crowd for the final home game of the year, and have much more to play for than Drake, who is all but already locked into a Thursday game.

Wednesday night’s game is the annual Jesuit Jam, a Loyola tradition dating back to the mid 1990s, in which students and fans can interact with and cheer/talk hoops with Loyola’s Jesuit community. The event begins at 6:50 pm at Gentile Arena. Students who arrive early receive a free Jesuit Jam Shirt (first 100) or bring $10 (cash) to purchase a Jesuit Jam Shirt and support their charity effort. There will be another legendary Jesuit Jam After-Party Celebration at the Damen Den, in the Damen Student Center for free pizza and prizes.

The Jesuits will also help honor senior Milton Doyle, who will be playing his final home game as a Rambler, and enters the game with 1572 points (10th in Loyola history), 473 rebounds, 443 assists (6th all time), 135 made three pointers (8th all time), 141 steals (8th all time), and 75 blocks (8th all time). Cheer loud for a Rambler who helped introduce Loyola into the MVC with class and excellence, and has helped to re-establish Loyola as top option for local hoops talent.

So there you have it—a big game for the Ramblers, one that they should be favored to win handily, the Jesuit Jam, Senior Night honoring one of the best players in Loyola history, a 4th, 5th, or 6th place conference finish on the line, and temperatures expected to be around 60 degrees in February. It would be nice to get a good, energized crowd given those circumstances.

  • Loyola game notes: Pending
  • Drake game notes: Pending
  • TV/Streaming video: CSN Chicago Plus/ESPN3 (Link Pending)
  • Vegas odds: Pending

Illinois State Preview — 2/19/17

Sunday, February 19, 2017 3:00 p.m.
Redbird Arena, Normal, Ill.

Loyola travels to Illinois State on Sunday, likely just in time for the return to the starting lineup of MiKyle MacIntosh. The Redbirds were 4-1 without him in the lineup, suffering their only conference loss (an 86-45 humiliation at Wichita State, broadcast nationally on ESPN2). In the span without McIntosh there were also a few close calls, like a six-point home win over Northern Iowa, and ISU’s last outing where McIntosh had to return to the lineup from the bench to help ISU come from behind to win 67-66 at Missouri State.

On New Year’s Day, Illinois State embarrassed Loyola with an 81-59 shellacking at Gentile Arena, in which at least half of the 1678 to show up were Redbird fans. The tandem of Deonte Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh caused huge problems for the Ramblers, combining to score 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting, and 5-for-9 from three-point territory. The two mobile forwards, standing 6’7” and 6’8” cause matchup problems for Loyola, because they can hit shots from anywhere on the court and have the capability to drive to the basket. The Redbirds shot 57.1% as a team in that game, by far the most efficient performance against the Ramblers by any team this season.

Keeping ISU well under their season average of 44.3% and away from the foul line is going to be rule number one if Loyola wants to stay in game at Redbird Arena. The Ramblers will also need some offensive contributions from the bench; last time out Loyola got only three points from the bench players (excluding Aundre Jackson), and that slim total was equal to the two previous games combined. Loyola hasn’t won at ISU since 1991. ISU is 13-0 at home this year, with an average winning margin of 11.2 points.