Tag Archives: Preview

Loyola Men’s Basketball 2018-19 Preview

Loyola’s 2017-18 men’s basketball season was something that Loyola’s small but die-hard fan base will never forget. Ramblermaniacs knew that the Ramblers would be very good. But following the team through so many bad years, false starts, and plunging hopes had buffered fans to resist bubbly optimism. It wasn’t too much of a surprise to win the MVC somewhat convincingly, but the run deep into a tournament Loyola hadn’t seen in 33 years was a stunner. At least it was for me.

How do the Ramblers follow an unbelievable storybook season? Loyola has had the benefit of being in the same conference to watch what happens to two different Final Four teams the year after they made an amazing run in the NCAA Tournament. Continue reading

Norfolk State Preview — 12-09-2017

Saturday, November 9, 2017 3:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

Fresh from an attention-grabbing upset over #5 Florida, the Ramblers close out their non-con home slate with Norfolk State. The Spartans lost at Loyola last year, 75-62, before going on to a very good season. They made it to the MEAC conference tournament final, losing a bid to the NCAA tournament by eight points, before ending their season in a CIT first-round loss to Liberty.

The Spartans lost two of their primary players from last year, their top and fourth best scorers, but have an experienced returning group. Picked to finish 2nd in the MEAC preseason men’s basketball poll behind Morgan State, the Spartans have struggled perhaps more than expected, with a record of 0-8 entering their matchup with Loyola. The team has been somewhat competitive in each game, but not able to close within nine points at the end of any games against D1 squads.

Coach Robert Jones has been tinkering with his lineup, but the likely starting five are 6’6” senior forward Preston Bungei, 6’8” junior forward Alex Long, 6’4” sophomore guard Stephen Whitley, 6’1” freshman guard Mastadi Pitt, and 6’4” senior guard Kyle Williams. Whitley is the team’s scoring and assist leader, with 12.3 points and 3.6 assists on average. He also shares the team lead in rebounds with 5.2 per contest, and leads in steals and free throw percentage. Bungei leads the team in blocks, shares the rebound lead, and averages 10.5 points; he also chips in 2.8 assists per contest as the small forward. Freshman Mastadi Pitt averages 10.1 points per game, much of it on the strength of his team-leading 13 three-pointers and 43.3% three-point shooting percentage. Long also averages 10.1 points, and adds 3.7 rebounds per game. Kyle Williams shoots well from three, but averages only 7.1 points per game this season; he played well against Loyola last year with 13 points and 7 rebounds.

The NSU bench players include 6’2” sophomore guard Nic Thomas (8.4 points per game), 6’5” junior guard Derrik Jamerson, Jr. (4.1 points), 7’0” senior center Dan Robinson (3.1 points, 3.6 rebounds), and 6’7” senior forward Stavian Allen (3.8 points, 3.3 rebounds).

Norfolk State’s biggest weakness is precisely the opposite of Loyola’s biggest strength: shooting percentage. Only one player on the Spartans, 6’8” Alex Long, has a field goal shooting percentage over 45.5% from the field. As a team, NSU averages only 38.8% on its field goal attempts, which ranks as 339th out of the 351 Division 1 teams. Loyola’s team field goal percentage is 7th in the nation at 52.2%, and 14th on three pointers at 42.3% as a team.

Although the Spartans have some dismal efficiency numbers, one has to remember that most of their non-con games have been on the road. NSU led by four points at halftime in their home game against Kent State, and they’ve managed to stay within striking distance (within 15 points or less) for all but three of their eight losses.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents/2017/12/8//Norfolk_State_Notes.pdf?id=4758

Norfolk State game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3232340/norfolk-state-vs-loyolachicago-m-basketball

Vegas odds: N/A

Florida Preview — 12-06-2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 7:00 p.m.
Exactech Arena, Gainesville, Fla.

With a good mix of experience and talented newcomers, the Florida Gators had a lofty #8 ranking in the 2017-18 AP Preseason Poll on Nov. 1. The preseason poll in the SEC picked Florida just behind favorite Kentucky in what is expected to be an uptick in the league’s competitiveness. After powering their way to a 5-1 record against good competition (their only loss was by three points to #1 Duke) and averaging 99.5 points per game (highest in college basketball) in their first six contests, Coach Mike White’s crew entered the week and their Monday night matchup with rival Florida State ranked #5 in the country.

Facing a short bench due to illness and injury, and coming off a long layoff after the PK80 tournament in Portland, the Gators couldn’t find their rhythm or their shots from distance against a disruptive Florida State defense, and lost 83-66. That’s no misprint—after averaging 99.5 points per game, they scored only 66 at home, to their biggest instate rival. FSU used swarming help defense to force long twos, forced 17 Gator turnovers, and crashed the glass for 23 offensive rebounds. The Seminoles are a team with a lot of length and quick hands, which seemed to disrupt Florida’s rhythm and force bad passes, bad shots, and turnovers. And despite Florida averaging 46% on their three-point shots coming into the game, the Seminoles held them to only 6-for-25 on threes (24%).

Florida’s likely starters are guards Jalen Hudson, KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov, and Chris Chiozza, plus forward/center Kevarrius Hayes. Playing his first season with the Gators, Hudson is a 6’6” junior guard who transferred from Virginia Tech, and leads the team in scoring with 20.9 points. He pulls in 4.4 rebounds per game and shoots great from behind the arc at 46.7%. He’s fast, athletic, and takes care of the ball well. Another newcomer in the backcourt is Egor Koulechov, a 6’5” graduate transfer from Rice. Koulechov is a great three point and free throw shooter, holding top 10 career rankings in both those stats at Rice. So far in Gator country he’s putting up numbers even better than in Texas, averaging 16.7 points per game on 42.5% three-point shooting. Although he’s better at shooting threes than shooting twos, Koulechov is not simply a three-point specialist—he contributes 6.6 rebounds and 2.7 assist per game, and has hit all but one of his 23 free throw attempts.

The other two guards are both 4-star recruits from the Billy Donovan era who have started nearly every games since they were freshmen. Chris Chiozza is a 6’0” playmaker very reminiscent of Fred Van Vleet. Quick, quirky, and seemingly everywhere on the floor, Chiozza is averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 assists per game in the early going. He doesn’t take a lot of threes, but when he takes them he makes them at a 55.6% rate. Florida State shut down Chiozza with only three points, four assists and four turnovers, and zero made field goals on five attempts—in 34 minutes. Junior KeVaughn Allen is a key defender and adds 13.7 points per game, but he is the only Gator who shoots below 40% from the field on both threes and twos. Allen picks up 3.4 rebounds per game, and like Koulechov, he shoots over 90% from the line.

Kevarrius Hayes is a 6’9” junior forward/center who starts about half the games for the Gators, switching off or pairing up with 6’8” forward Keith Stone depending on the matchup. Hayes averages 4.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.85 blocks per game. Stone averages 5.7 points and only 2.3 rebounds; he likes to play a bit further away from the basket and should be considered a dangerous threat from three.

Florida’s bench is surprisingly short for a legitimate Final Four contender. Besides the likelihood of Stone coming off the bench, only 6’8” four-star freshman shooting guard Deaundrae Ballard (8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds) 6’3” four-star freshman guard Mike Okauru (5.3 points per game), and 6’11” sophomore center Gorjok Gak (7’4” wingspan) have seen time in every game.

Wednesday night’s matchup in Gainesville will be the first meeting in history between the Ramblers and the Florida Gators. The Gators are one of four teams Loyola has never faced in the SEC; Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee are the others. It’s also their last of only two non-con games against a top 100 foe. The Ramblers had perhaps their best game of the year and received significant contributions from newcomers Adarius Avery, Lucas Williamson, and Cameron Krutwig in their win against UIC on Saturday. Defensively, Loyola looked much improved over the first week of the season, and the team looked rejuvenated from a long road trip and searing loss at Boise State. But to beat Florida, on their own floor, immediately following their fourth straight loss to their in-state rival, is going to take another higher level of defense and some fortunate bounces.

Having watched parts of three Florida games this year, one gets the impression sometimes that the Gators like to take it easy. They’re all ultra-talented, but the mental toughness, killer instinct, willingness to work extra hard for every ball, willingness to sacrifice for the team, diving to the floor for a loose ball, etc. is something that has yet to emerge on a consistent basis. A couple of weeks ago, the Gators prevailed in a lackluster 70-63 home win against New Hampshire where they had only three assists and shot 3-of-18 from three. Their three-point loss to Duke came after Florida led by 17 points in that game with ten minutes to play, and led by 10 with 4:15 left. And then there was Monday’s return to lacklusterdom against a hard-working, pressing rival with a nuisance defense.

It almost seems like if it’s going to be a big hassle for these guys, they’re not really into it. It’s somewhat telling when the game story of Florida’s loss has the headline “Gators Get Roughed Up by Seminoles, Must Toughen Up”– and that’s on Florida’s own official website.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents/2017/12/4//Florida_Notes.pdf?id=4754

Florida game notes: http://floridagators.com/documents/2017/12/5/2017_12_06_LoyolaChicago.pdf

TV/Streaming video: SEC Network / http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3207014/loyolachicago-vs-7-florida-m-basketball

Radio/Audio: Sirius 135 / XM 191

Vegas odds: Florida by 15.5