Category Archives: Game Previews

SIU Preview — Arch Madness Edition — 3/3/17

Friday, March 3, 2017 2:30 p.m.
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Mo.

For the third time in 27 days– and for the second time in the past week– Loyola faces Barry Hinson’s Southern Illinois Salukis. The Ramblers lost close games in the first two contests, by 6 points at home and by two points on the road. If you ask most Loyola players and fans, the Ramblers should have won both those games, and especially the one last week in Carbondale that could have vaulted Loyola into the #3 seed. But instead, Loyola as a #5 seed (the highest Arch Madness seeding in the four years since Loyola joined the MVC) will attempt to knock off #4 seed SIU on a neutral court.

The Ramblers are 3-3 all-time at Arch Madness, and 2-6 all-time against SIU. In the 26 years of Arch Madness there have been 13 times where two teams that faced each other on the last day of the season have had an opening round rematch, and in those games, the teams that won to end the season are 8-5. This year, the Loyola-SIU rematch at Arch Madness is one of three pairs of teams that also played each other in the regular season finale. Loyola is 2-1 on the season at neutral sites, and the Salukis haven’t played at a neutral court this season.

Despite no games at a neutral site yet this year, the Salukis will surely have plenty of fans on hand in St. Louis, which is only 105 miles from SIU’s Campus and one of the largest job markets for SIU graduates. The SIU partisans are used to success at Arch Madness, having won in 1993, 19994, 1995, and 2006. And Barry Hinson is 13-12 in 13 trips to St. Louis as head coach of SIU (2012-Present) and Missouri State (1999-2008).

One of the two teams will end their season in this game on Friday, and one of two all-conference seniors will end their college career. Will it be SIU’s versatile 6’7” forward Sean O’Brien, a MVC second team honoree who has annihilated the Ramblers in SIU’s two wins? O’Brien had 19 points and 10 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting in the first game, and 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the second game against LU. Or will it be Milton Doyle, the do-everything first team awardee who ranks in the top ten of so many Loyola basketball statistical categories? Doyle has been held in check against the Salukis, and the Ramblers have been bothered by SIU’s rim protection in the person of Thik Bol.

The Ramblers haven’t really put their pieces together against SIU. In the first game on Feb. 4, Donte Ingram had one of his best games of the year, scoring 22 points and racking up 10 rebounds, just about offsetting Sean O’Brien’s big game. Unfortunately, Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson had sub-par games and Aundre Jackson struggled against SIU’s big men, shooting below 50% from the field for only the fourth time in the season. In the second game last Saturday, Loyola overcame an early 12-point deficit and looked to take charge with six minutes left to play, but the Salukis always had an answer to keep the score close and hit a game-winning three-pointer in the final 20 seconds. This time Clayton Custer had the big game with 21 points, but Ben Richardson struggled again (2 points), and Milton Doyle (13 points on 5-of-13 shooting) and Donte Ingram (11 points) were kept in check. Meanwhile, the two SIU shooting guards, Leo Vincent and Armon Fletcher, combined for 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

Loyola certainly played better in the second game against SIU, but the offense experienced long dry spells in both previous contests. The Ramblers may have to consider backing off guarding O’Brien a bit, and concentrate on limiting offensive contributions from the likes of 6’4” guard Armon Fletcher (averaged 13 points in previous two contests), 6’1” guard Leo Vincent (averaged 11 in two games), and point guard Mike Rodriquez (13.5 average). If Loyola can put up with letting O’Brien go off for 25 points hold the trio of Fletcher, Vincent and Rodriguez in single digits, and figure out a way to neutralize 6’8” Thik Bol, will they may have a better chance at changing the outcome? Some other alternatives are to get O’Brien in foul trouble early and often (which he is apt to do), change the dynamic by using tactics that fluster the opposition (using traps, a full court press, a zone, etc.), improve offensive efficiency, get to the line more often, etc.

The only options left to the Ramblers are how they will beat SIU. When or whether or if they beat SIU is no longer an option. Just beat SIU. And waiting in line afterwards are possibly two other teams that swept the Ramblers this year who are also in need of a lesson.


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