Category Archives: Game Previews

Valpo Preview — 02-14-2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

Loyola returns home for their penultimate regular season home game of the year against Valparaiso on Wednesday night, just a win or two away from clinching a league title and postseason tournament berth. At 21-5 overall and 11-3 in conference, the Ramblers are enjoying their best season since 1985 and have already surpassed some long-standing high-water marks. A win would cut Loyola’s magic number to win the conference outright to 2.

The visiting Crusaders are coming off a 74-58 home win over an Illinois State team riddled by injuries. Valparaiso started off the season with an eight-game winning streak capped by a win in the MVC/Mountain West Challenge over Utah State. But an illness and an academic disqualification to their top two players sent the Crusaders into a funk. They lost seven out of their next eight games overall–
including their first three league games– before getting their first two conference wins. Then they lost another seven of eight before getting a W against the Redbirds last Sunday night. At 4-10 in conference, Valpo still has a good chance to top Loyola’s 4-14 inaugural season in the MVC.

Coach Matt Lottich’s crew starts three 6’2” guards—seniors Tevonn Walker and Max Joseph, and sophomore Bakari Evelyn. Seven-foot-two sophomore center Derrik Smits and 6’8” freshman forward Mileek McMillan start in the frontcourt. Walker is the team’s leading scorer (14.7 ppg), top rebounder (4.8 rpg), and best defensive player. He is really quick, very streaky, and often dictates the energy for the entire team. Sophomore Bakari Evelyn is the only Valpo player to start every game this season, and Is the 2nd highest scorer at 12.6 per game. Joseph is a solid guard who plays great defense; he averages 7.4 ppg. Freshman Micah Bradford, a 6’2” point guard, comes off the bench for about 15 minutes per game and has the team’s best assist to turnover ratio; he averages 5.2 points per game.

At 7’2”, Smits’ 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in just under 20 minutes on average doesn’t tell the full story—he’s very good at rim protection, but leads the team in turnovers with 57. Backing him up off the bench is another 7-foot sophomore, Jaume Sarolla, who averages 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds while leading the team in blocks. McMillan starts and averages 3.0 points and 1.4 rebounds, but plays only about 10 minutes per game. Sophomore guard/forward Markus Golder plays most of the time in the role of the four, averaging 8.8 points and 4.1 boards.

The most important thing when playing Valpo is controlling the tempo. The Crusaders haven’t won a single game this year while scoring under 69 points. When scoring 69 points or more, the Crusaders are 13-3, and when scoring less than 69, they’re 0-11. In their last matchup on Jan. 21, Loyola beat the Crusaders in front of their largest crowd of the year, 70-54. Clayton Custer led Loyola with 18 points, five assists, and four steals as six Loyola players scored eight points or more. Bakari Evelyn scored 17 of his game high 19 points in the second half. The Ramblers made only eight turnovers for the game and won the rebounding battle 34-27.

Valpo leads the league in steals, and they use their quick hands on defense to spark their offense. They have forced the most turnovers in the league, but also committed the most turnovers in the league. Taking care of the ball and making the Crusaders work hard late into the shot clock on every possession is key to beating them.

The Ramblers gutted out a 75-71 win at Indiana State on Saturday. Loyola shot 63.6% from the field in the second half to overcome a five-point halftime deficit and 17 ugly turnovers for the game to earn their 11th conference win. Eleven wins is the most in conference since the Ramblers’ all-time high of 13 in 1984-85. Twenty-one overall wins ties the 2006-07 team for the most wins since 1984-85, and there are still four regular-season games and up to three conference tournament games to go.

Loyola game notes: … df?id=5857

Valparaiso game notes: … _Notes.pdf

TV/Streaming video: ESPN3 / … basketball


Vegas odds: Pending

Indiana State Preview — 02-10-2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018 1:00 p.m.
Hulman Center, Terre Haute, Ind.

Just three weeks ago, Indiana State was making a bid to be one of the top four teams in the MVC. On Jan. 20, Coach Greg Lansing’s crew demolished Illinois State 84-54 before 5100 fans at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute. The win put the Sycamores at 5-3 in conference, with a road win over the Ramblers and their three losses by a combined nine points.

But in a league with the kind of parity the MVC has this season, the long scoring droughts the Sycamores often suffered began to catch up with them– and fast. Consecutive losses at SIU, at home against Bradley, and at Valparaiso put the Trees in negative territory. A road win against UNI brightened their prospects and brought them back to break even, but a 19-point drubbing at home by an MSU team lugging around a 5-game losing streak nipped that optimism in the bud.

Inconsistency has been the problem all year long for the Trees. You never know whether you’re getting the team that beat Indiana and Loyola on the road, or the team that has lost home games to Ball State and Elon.

Indiana State has a starting lineup of 6’7” center Brandon Murphy, 6’8” forward Devin Thomas, and three high-scoring guards: Jordan Barnes, Brenton Scott, and Quiydar Davis. Barnes is a speedy 5’11” sophomore who can be explosive on offense. Barnes averages 17.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and has already connected on 92 threes this season, which leads the league by a wide margin. Scott, a 6’1” senior, is nearly as dangerous, averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. Davis is a 6’5” grad transfer from Louisiana Tech who puts up 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 54.6% from the field.

Freshman guard Tyreke Key (currently under concussion protocol and may not be available), 6’9” junior center Emondre Rickman, 6’8” sophomore forward Bronson Kessinger, and 6’6” freshman guard Clayton Hughes are the top players from the bench.

The Ramblers are coming off a 72-57 home win over Drake that equaled their best conference win total since 1985. Loyola is 4-2 this year in conference road games, but they’re 1-3 at the Hulman Center since joining the MVC. The Sycamores beat Loyola 61-57 at the Gentile Arena on Jan. 3 this year, led by Brenton Scott with 16 points and Brandon Murphy with 12.

Before the game, Indiana State will be honoring Clarence Walker, a pioneering African-American player from the late 1940s, who was recruited to ISU by Coach John Wooden.

Loyola game notes: … df?id=5845

Indiana State game notes: … 6Notes.pdf

TV/Streaming video: ESPN3 / … iana-state


Vegas odds: Pending

Drake Preview — 2-07-2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

On Wednesday Loyola welcomes Drake to Gentile Arena, where Loyola boasts a 10-1 record (8-0 when MVC Player of the Year candidate Clayton Custer is guiding the Ramblers). Drake, fresh off doing what no other team has been able to do this year– defeating Bradley in Peoria– come into Gentile Arena with as many conference wins so far this year as they’ve had in the past two full seasons combined. Drake’s seven MVC wins are their most since 2012-13, and there are still six games left. The Bulldogs have three home games left against teams in the bottom of the standings, and a realistic chance at their best season since their Top 25 ranking and trip to the tournament in 2007-08.

Two weeks ago, Loyola and Drake faced off in Des Moines with both teams tied for first place in the conference at 6-2. With the score tied at 51 on a big three-pointer by Drakes’ Nick McGlynn and the Knapp Center rocking, Loyola went on a 22-2 run over the ensuing seven minutes, holding Drake without a field goal. The Ramblers won 80-57, and have held on to first place with a 2-1 record since. Drake has lost two out of their last three.

The Bulldogs are using the same starting lineup of 6’8” junior forward Nick McGlynn and four guards: 6’1” senior Reed Timmer, 6’2” senior C.J. Rivers, 6’3” senior Ore Arogundade, and 6’2” senior De’Antae McMurray. Graham Woodward provides big scoring off the bench. Six-ten forward Casey Schlatter, 6’11” center/forward Kory Kuenstling, and freshman guard Noah Thomas also get significant playing time off the bench.

The Bulldogs, with their quick guards, free shooters, and long-range bombers, seems like a team that depends of their offense, but not so. In Drake’s three recent losses against Loyola, Evansville, and SIU, the Bulldogs gave up an average of 78.3 points per game. In their win against Bradley on Saturday night, they held the Braves to less than 20% shooting on threes and only 37.3% from the field. In fact, Drake is 7-0 when the hold the opposition to under 45% field goal percentage, and 0-5 when opponents shoot better than 45%.

Meanwhile, the Ramblers shot 60.9% against Missouri State on Saturday, and now lead the nation in home field-goal percentage at 55.1%, ahead of Michigan State at 54.7%. Beginning with Loyola last game against Drake, Clayton Custer is averaging 20.3 points per game, has only missed 12 out of 44 field goal attempts overall, and is shooting 83.3% on two-point shots. For the season, the 6’1” Custer is shooting 56.1% from the field, which would be pretty good for a frontcourt player.

The season is ticking down. Wednesday’s game is one of only three home games left to play for the Ramblers, and with five teams within two games of the top spot, every game (especially home games) is vital. While Loyola is playing Drake on Wednesday, third place Bradley will be playing at Northern Iowa. And on Thursday night, the short-staffed, second-place Salukis (winners of five straight games despite essentially having only six players) will be playing at resurgent third-place Illinois State.

Loyola game notes: … df?id=5840

Drake game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: NBC Sports Chicago / … basketball


Vegas odds: Pending