Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

NCAA Preview vs. Michigan — 3-31-2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018 5:09 p.m.
The Alamodome, San Antonio, Tex.

For a discussion of the 1964 NCAA Tournament game between Loyola and Michigan, and the disputed traveling call, click here.

After reaching their first Final Four in more than five decades, the Ramblers had a chance to celebrate for about 2 hours before discovering their national semifinal opponent. The game between Florida State and Michigan showed that both teams bidding for a berth against Loyola in San Antonio had significant strengths and a few weaknesses. After watching the game, most Loyola fans are probably happy that they won’t have to face the length and athleticism of Florida State. Still, they have to face a Big 10 powerhouse in the 32-7 Michigan Wolverines.

Want to get scared and intimidated? In the NCAA Tournament national semifinal, Loyola faces a Big 10 team—the Power 5 conference in Loyola’s own backyard. They face a team that won their tough conference tournament and won 13 games in a row dating back to Feb. 3—the second longest winning streak in college basketball. They’re a powerful defensive team, allowing opponents an average of only 63.1 points per game (8th best in the nation). They have three players averaging in double-digit points per game and are among the best shooters in D1 basketball with a 47.0% field goal percentage (56th in the nation)– and their 351 threes rank 18th in D1 hoops.

Pretty scary, huh? Unfortunately for the Michigan Wolverines, they’re facing a Loyola team that won its conference regular season (by four games) AND its conference tournament. They’re facing a team that has won 14 games in a row dating back to Jan. 31, the longest current winning streak in men’s college basketball. They’re facing a powerful defensive team that allows opponents an average of only 62.4 points per game (5th best in the nation). Five Loyola players average in double-digit points, and Loyola has the third best field goal percentage in the nation (50.9%) while shooting 40.0% from behind the arc (16th best in the nation).

The Wolverines played a relatively weak non-con schedule, and nearly made the worst of it. Because they lost the opening game of their MTE against LSU, they ended up playing Division II Chaminade and VCU on their trip to Hawaii instead of Notre Dame and Marquette. They lost a road game at North Carolina, and split their first two Big 10 conference games, leaving them on December 5th at 6-3 overall and 1-1 in conference with their best RPI win at home against Indiana (125). Michigan’s RPI was 220 going into week 4, while Loyola’s was 183.

During the last three weeks of December, the Maize and Blue won four non-con games, including a home win over UCLA and a roadie at Texas. And when conference play resumed, Coach John Beilein’s squad won their first two games to get back above .500 in conference for good. Michigan took care of business in the Big 10, impressing everyone with a 10-point road win over Michigan State on Jan. 13, and knocking off conference leader Ohio State in their home game against the Buckeyes. But there were some chinks in the armor: U of M was swept by Purdue in the regular season, split with Northwestern, and lost by 20 at Nebraska.

The loss at Northwestern on Feb. 6 was their last. The Wolverines won their last five regular season games to surge to a tie for 4th in the regular season standings. Then 5th-seeded UM knocked off Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Purdue in four consecutive days to win the B1G Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Winning the B1G Tournament tends to go a long way with the committee, so Michigan got a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, two spots higher in the Big Dance than their seeding in their conference tournament. They beat 14-seed Montana, got a last-second 35-foot three-point prayer to beat 6-seed Houston, demolished 7-seed Texas A&M by 25 points, and ground out an ugly slog of a win against 9-seeded Florida State. They had whatever it took in several very different styles of play to get to the Final Four. And now one of these teams that was on no one’s radar as a serious, deep-run tournament threat after week four of the season is going to play for a spot in the National Championship game.

This is Michigan’s third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, and their 8th in the last 10 seasons. Their 3-seed in this year’s tournament is their second highest seeding after getting a 2 seed in 2013-14, the year after they lost in the title game. Loyola and Michigan met in the 1964 Sweet 16, with Michigan winning 84-80. Loyola won the last meeting between the two teams on Feb. 1, 1969 at Chicago Stadium, leaving U of M with a 2-1 advantage in the series.

LINEUPS

Michigan is likely to start 6’6” junior guard Charles Matthews, 6’4” senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, 6’0” sophomore guard Zavier Simpson, 6’11” junior forward Moritz Wagner, and 6’7” freshman forward Isaiah Livers. Abdur-Rahkman is the dynamic leader of the Wolverines, and leads the team in minutes (35.7) and assists while averaging 12.8 points per game. More than half of Abdur-Rahkman’s shots come from behind the arc, where he’s connected on 71 threes while shooting 38.8%. Wagner (cue Flight of the Valkyries) is UM’s top scorer and rebounder with 14.3 and 6.9; his really great three-point shooting for a big man (59 made threes and 39.6% shooting) has probably surprised many opponents. Wagner leads the team in fouls (115) and disqualification from fouls (3), but if you’re thinking that fouling him out is the answer to your troubles, don’t bother. Michigan is 14-3 in games where Wagner has four or more fouls, and 3-0 in his three disqualifications.

Chicagoan Charles Matthews (St. Rita) is a transfer from Kentucky, and averages 13.0 ppg and 5.6 rpg; he’s an acceptable three-point shooter (32%), but really excels at finishing around the basket. Matthews can be prone to turnovers, but he has taken better care of the ball lately, outside of a five turnover game against Montana. Zavier Simpson is the quick playmaker for UM, who leads the team in assists (3.7 per game) and scores 7.5 points on average. He’s not a great shooter from distance, but finishes well at the basket.

The top bench players are 6’8” senior forward Duncan Robinson, 7’1” center Jon Teske, 6’1” grad transfer guard Jaaron Simmons, and 6’5” freshman guard Jordan Poole. Robinson is a senior who plays starter’s minutes and takes most of his shots from the perimeter. Despite being 6’8”, he can play the 2 or the 3, which provides a lot of flexibility. Robinson averages 9.5 ppg and is the best foul shooter by far on one of the worst free throw percentage teams in the country. Teske is a sophomore big man who averages 3.5 points and 3.3 rebounds; he’s gone for two double-doubles and scored 14 in the conference tournament final against Purdue. Simmons averages only 1.5 points per game. Poole averages 6.2 points per game and hit the game-winning three-pointer against Houston. Few other U of M players see meaningful minutes.

(For a helpful scouting breakdown on all the U of M players, you can read these two reports from Michigan fans posted on Ramblermania.)

STATS

Loyola looks fantastic if you go by raw numbers, but most college hoops observers will downplay Loyola’s stats as primarily coming against inferior mid-major competition. However, Loyola averages almost the same or even BETTER against tournament quality teams than they have for the season, and all of Loyola’s tournament quality games (Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, Kansas State) have come on the road or at neutral sites:

P5/Ranked Overall
Points for/against 67.8/62.6 72.0/62.4
Field goal pct. 52.4 50.6
Opp FG pct. 41.3 41.4
Three point pct. 42.9 40.0
Opp Three point pct. 26.4 32.6

(Note: Loyola also defeated Wright State in non-conference regular season play; they were a 15 seed in this year’s tournament).

Loyola and Michigan play very similar styles. Michigan is a slightly better rebounding team, enjoys playing at a slightly faster pace, and has a small edge in steals, blocks, and taking care of the ball. Loyola is a slightly better shooting team, both from the field and from the line. Michigan tends to play their best in a game with the pace factor (possessions per 40 minutes) from 66-71, while the Ramblers play a more deliberate pace (59-67). KenPom.com ranks Michigan 4th in Defensive Efficiency, and Loyola at 18th. Michigan ranks 30th in Offensive Efficiency while the Ramblers rank 60th.

The Ramblers are a decided underdog yet again, as they have been for every game of the tournament. Loyola hasn’t seemed intimidated by the big stage up ‘til now, but the Final Four will kick all of the hype and hysteria up another notch or two.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Here are some things Loyola will need to do to beat Michigan:

Dictate the pace. Michigan has the ability to win playing slow or fast and loose, but they prefer to manage their scoring into the mid-70s. When the games are in the low 60s or below, they tend to have a little trouble.

Shoot better than 50%. Teams have beaten Michigan averaging less than 50% on field goals, like Northwestern (40%), Purdue (47.4%) and Ohio State (48.9%). But all four opponents who shot over 50% against Michigan won their game. And Loyola has shot 50% or better from the field 24 times this season, winning all 24 games.

Get to the free throw line. Michigan is 14-6 when putting their opponents on the free throw line 16 or more times, which sounds like a pretty good record. But that accounts for all but one of their losses. And three of those wins came in overtime, and one came on Jordan Poole’s last-second bomb for the win over Houston. When opponents shoot fewer than 16 free throws, they’re 18-1. The Ramblers average 17.4 trips to the line in their wins, but only 15 in their losses.

Hold Michigan to less than 30% three-point shooting. The Wolverines are 7-5 when shooting less than 30% on threes, and the Ramblers are 15-0 when holding opponents under 30% from behind the arc.

Move the ball! The Ramblers have gotten away with being sloppy with the ball the past few games, averaging 12.8 turnovers in the tournament and 15.5 in the past two games. Meanwhile, Michigan has averaged only 9.8 turnovers in the tournament and only 8.3 over the last three games. Assists are especially important, as the Ramblers are 31-0 when making more or equal assists than their opponents, and the Wolverines are 1-4 when opponents win in assists.

LINKS

NCAA Preview vs. Tennessee — 3-17-2018

Saturday, March 17, 2018, 5:10 p.m.
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Tex.

Last October, the Tennessee Volunteers were picked to finish 13th (second to last) in the 2017-18 SEC Preseason Men’s Basketball Poll. It wasn’t the first time Rick Barnes was underestimated. In 2017-18 the longtime coach with 661 victories won a share of the SEC regular season crown in his third year at Tennessee. With a record of 26-8, the 3-seed Vols enter the Round of 32 after beating Horizon League champions Wright State in a 73-47 thrashing in the first round.

If you aren’t familiar with or haven’t followed Coach Rick Barnes’ career, you might be surprised to learn that he coached five different teams to 23 NCAA Tournament appearances in 31 seasons, including a trip to the Final Four and six Sweet 16s. Since 1988, when he signed on to right the ship at Providence, Rick Barnes has been bouncing from one difficult, underappreciated major conference coaching gig to another. George Mason, Providence, Clemson, and Texas all took him for granted, and now he’s landed at another tough men’s basketball coaching gig, Tennessee.

Being the well-paid men’s basketball coach at a football school is not an easy gig. The Vols have only been to the tournament once since Bruce Pearl crashed and burned in scandal in 2011. That was Cuonzo Martin’s 2013-14 season that allowed him to bail out and take the head coaching gig at Cal Berkeley. A year later, in March 2014, Texas fired Barnes (their winningest coach of all time) because his team was beaten by Butler in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Tennessee was happy to get him, and after two more years out of the Tournament, this year the Vols are the top seed out of the SEC.

The 2017-18 Volunteers have had a very stable lineup since the beginning of the season. The starters are 6’5” sophomore forward Grant Williams, 6’5” junior forward Admiral Schofield, 6’3” sophomore guard Jordan Bowden, 6’1” sophomore guard Jordan Bone, and 6’9” junior forward Kyle Alexander. Two bench players play key minutes: 6’1” sophomore guard Lamonte Turner, and 5’10” senior guard James Daniel. John Fulkerson and Derrick Walker, two freshman forwards, play most games under 10 minutes to play defensive matchups.

Williams and Schofield lead the Vols in scoring at 15.3 and 13.8 points per game respectively. Williams does most of his scoring inside, and Schofield is a dangerous three-point shooter at 39.5%. They’re neck-and-neck for team leaders in rebounding, with Williams slightly better on the offensive glass and Schofield way out in front on defensive boards. Schofield is from Zion, Illinois, where he played on the same Zion-Benton team as Illinois State’s Malik Yarborough, so he’s used to playing alongside a similar, complementary player in the frontcourt. You might think of Williams as Aundre Jackson, and Schofield as Donte Ingram, only more muscular and willing to bang down low. Forward Kyle Alexander is a rim protector on defense (55 blocks ranks 8th in the SEC), and shoots for high percentage when he gets the ball at point blank range.

The UT backcourt features Jordan Bone as the playmaker, averaging 7.3 points and 3.6 assists per game. Jordan Bowden is the shooting guard, and averages 9.3 points per game. Both are dangerous from three-point territory, shooting 38.8 and 39.5% respectively. The real three-point threat comes in the form of Lamonte Turner off the bench. Turner shoots 40% behind the arc, leads the team in threes, and averages 10.7 points per game. James Daniel is the backup point guard averaging 5.8 points and 2.9 assists in an average of 20.1 minutes per game.

Both the Ramblers and the Vols were underestimated by prognosticators at the beginning of the season. Neither team has much height, and both teams faded at the end of last season to a mediocre finish. Both teams had promising freshmen, but only Loyola’s freshmen made an impact. Nevertheless, both teams rose to the top of their leagues.

Tennessee dismantled Wright State 73-47 Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, doing most of their damage after WSU’s big man Loudon Love got his third foul in the first half. The Vols limited WSU’s savvy senior Grant Benzinger to five points on 2 of 16 shooting. The Vols limited the Raiders to 19% three point shooting, and 31.7% shooting overall. And UT won the rebounding battle 44-32, and forced 13 WSU turnovers. Lamonte Turner led the Vols with 19 points off the bench, and Schofield had a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards.

The Ramblers are coming off one of the most emotional days in the school’s athletic history. The dramatic winning shot at the buzzer by Donte Ingram to capture their first tournament game in a generation and a half will be remembered and talked about for a long time. Loyola’ Sr. Jean Dolores Schmidt became a national celebrity over the past few weeks. The Blers Mafia, the Maroon N Gold scarves, Bo Rambler, and the Wall of Culture are hot topics in Chicago and around college basketball. Longtime Loyola fans knew that the team and the school had the potential to be here. But going forward to the next step—a Sweet 16 appearance against even higher odds—is going to take some flawless performances, shrewd game planning, and probably some luck.

Real-time NCAA Tournament bracket: https://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracke … ll-men/d1/

Loyola game notes: Pending

Tennessee game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: TNT / https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/article/2018-03-15/march-madness-2018-live-stream-tv-schedule-watch-every-game

Vegas odds: Tennessee by 6.5

NCAA Preview: vs. Miami 3-15-2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018 2:10 p.m.
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Tex.

Loyola gets their first taste of the NCAA Tournament in 33 years on Thursday as an 11 seed facing the sixth-seeded Miami Hurricanes. It’s been a long time coming for the Ramblers, who assumed they’d be very good this year, but probably didn’t expect 28-5 record, an RPI of 22, winning the MVC by four games, and a relatively easy nationally-televised win at Arch Madness. At 22-9 overall, 11-7 in the ACC, and sharing a three-way tie for third place in the conference, the Canes had a very respectable season that probably didn’t quite live up to expectations.

This is the third straight year Miami has been in the tournament. Two years ago, Miami had probably its second-best team ever, led by a tight group of experienced seniors. Guards Sheldon McClennan and Angel Rodriquez lifted Miami to the top of the AP Top 25 for three weeks in February 2016. The Canes earned a 3 seed in the Tournament and defeated Buffalo and Wichita State before falling to eventual National Champion Villanova in the Sweet 16. Last year, a rebuilding Miami team surprised a lot of observers with a 21-11 record and a 10-8 ACC mark got an 8 seed; but they bounced out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Michigan State.

The Canes were picked to finish fourth in the ACC preseason poll and 13th in the preseason AP Top 25. Their 2016-17 season was strong, and impressive freshmen Bruce Brown, Dewan Huell, and Dejan Vesiljevic were expected to make a big sophomore improvement. NBA prospect and the country’s 11th ranked freshman recruit Lonnie Walker IV was going to be an impact player. Against a parade of not-as-good-as-expected, mediocre or bad non-con opponents, Miami reeled off 11 straight wins to begin the season. Before heading to their pre-Christmas MTE in Hawaii, they were 10-0 with a 86-81 win at then-undefeated and #15 Minnesota as their marquee win.

After winning their first game against tournament host Hawaii, the Canes lost to New Mexico State and eked out a three-point win against Middle Tennessee. Eight games into their conference season, with their record at 4-4, the U was dealt a big blow: sophomore point guard Bruce Brown (11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG) suffered a season-ending foot injury. The young Hurricanes pulled together and won seven of their last 10 regular season games, including a crucial three-point win at UNC on a running 30-foot buzzer-beater.

Miami had maybe the easiest ACC schedule—only one game against Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Syracuse, NC State, and Virginia; two games against Pittsburgh (0-18 in conference, 217 RPI) and Boston College (7-11, 95 RPI). Only three of their 11 conference wins came against teams with an RPI better than 60; they were 3-6 on the season against teams with RPIs better than 50, including their one-and-out in the ACC Tournament. Against teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season, they were 5-7.

The 2017-18 Hurricanes are primarily powered by sophomores and freshmen. Their starters are 6’5” freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV, 6’3” senior guard Ja’Quan Newton, 6’7” junior guard Anthony Lawrence Jr., 5’7” freshman guard Chris Lykes, and 6’11” sophomore forward Dewan Huell. Walker and Huell each average 11.5 ppg, with Huell doing his damage in or near the paint and Walker driving and shooting from distance. Half of Walker’s shots are from behind the arc, and he hits on about 35% of them (though he’s hitting on 42% in the last five games). The loss of Brown for the season allowed for explosively quick freshman Chris Lykes to join the starting lineup, and he’s averaging 9.6 ppg while shooting most of his shots outside the arc. The most experienced players on the team are senior Ja’Quan Newton and junior Anthony Lawrence Jr., a long guard who averages 8.9 points and shares the rebounding lead with Huell at 6.6 per game. Newton averages 8.6 points per game and is the best playmaker, with 2.7 assists.

Major players off the bench are Dejan Vesiljevic, Sam Waardenburg, and Ebuka Izundu. Vesiljevic is the main three-point threat coming off the bench; the 6’3” sophomore guard averages 9.0 points per game and leads the team in made threes with 66 of them hit at a rate of 40.7%. Waardenburg is a 6’10” redshirt freshman forward who started earning regular playing time in late January; he averages 3.5 points and 2.9 rebounds. Izundu is a 6’10 junior center who averages 5.0 points and 3.7 boards. Sophomore 7-footer Rodney Miller also gets some minutes.

Like the Ramblers, the Canes share the ball well. They have six players that average between 8.9 and 11.5 points per game. Point guard Bruce Brown was averaging 4.0 assist per game before his injury, but the other guards have taken on a lot of the playmaking. Vesiljevic is the only guard on the bench who gets significant playing time, but the Canes usually keep out of foul trouble. Miami has a good team assist to turnover ratio (1.16). The Canes shoot well from three-point territory, and are one of the better defensive teams in a mostly offense-minded conference. Miami prefers to play at a faster pace, and has trouble against teams with a more deliberate pace. They are 16-2 when they score 72 points or more, but only 2-6 when scoring under 67 points.

Miami Coach Jim Larranaga has five members of his team (plus injured point guard Bruce Brown) who played in last year’s 78-58 loss to Michigan State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Larranaga himself has been to eight previous tournaments, including George Mason’s trip to the Final Four in 2006.

The Ramblers have been very consistent throughout the season. Except for two unmitigated debacles at Boise State and Milwaukee, the Ramblers have played cool, calm, collected and resolute all through the season. Even on big stages like the game at Florida and at Arch Madness, Loyola has looked confident and sure footed. But this is a different stage, and it will test Coach Porter Moser’s leadership and the power of the wall of culture to stay focused and keep the butterflies in check.

Loyola game notes: Pending

Miami game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: truTV / http://www.trutv.com/shows/ncaa/index.html

Stats: http://www.statbroadcast.com/ncaa/site.php?sid=mbbb12

Vegas odds: Miami by 2.5