Loyola Chicago Ramblers (31-5) at Kansas State Wildcats (25-11)
We picked up another big win last night when we backed Texas Tech as underdogs against Purdue. The game was a grinder, and both teams played very hard, but in the end, the Boilermakers just didn’t have the ability to score the basketball efficiently enough without big man, Isaac Haas, on the floor.
The Red Raiders were able to overcome a slow start from their senior leader, Keenan Evans, and used a big second half to pull away for the 78-65 outright win. This Texas Tech team will have a tough task as they face Villanova in their next game, but people have been counting this team out all year long, and they have proved everyone wrong.
They just might shock the world on Sunday and head to their first-ever Final Four. We are undefeated so far on this second weekend of March Madness and will look to stay hot today as I break down the matchup between the Ramblers of Loyola Chicago and the Kansas State Wildcats.
The Kansas State Wildcats, at an at-large selection from the Big 12 conference, will look to end the Ramblers of Loyola Chicago’s Cinderella run. The Wildcats are a bit of a Cinderella themselves as they finished just fourth in the Big 12 this year and are only a nine seed.
For Loyola, they don’t want to see the clock tick midnight on this historic run. The Ramblers have used a great defense and solid shooting from outside to advance to their first-ever Elite Eight. This game is an even pick ‘em. The game total over-under is set at 126.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:09 PM PST from Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
I have said it all tournament long, this Loyola team is the real deal. This is not some plucky underdog that has gotten hot from deep and lucked themselves to a deep run in the tournament. This is a well-built team that has a recipe for success in March. They play elite level defense and shoot the ball very well from beyond the arc. They are a battle tested team that is used to winning and has all the swagger in the world right now. Every year there is a team that captivates the nation’s heart during the tournament and this year it is the Ramblers.
Backed by their unofficial mascot in the tournament, Sister Jean the nun, this team even seems to have God on their side! Sister Jean is the team’s chaplain and emotional and spiritual leader. The 98-year-old has been the runaway biggest story of the tournament, and she has become an instant celebrity. All eyes will be on her today as her team tries to win one more game and advance to the first Final Four in school history.
This run by the Kansas State Wildcats was hard to see coming. They were a mediocre team all year long and were not too far from the bubble on Selection Sunday. While the Wildcats did finish fourth in the Big 12, a very strong league this year. They did it mostly by beating the lower half of the league.
They didn’t beat West Virginia, they didn’t beat Kansas, they didn’t beat Texas Tech. They ran up double-digit wins in the league by beating the likes of Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Georgia. All teams that missed out on the NCAA tournament this year.
They have had a similar soft schedule so far in this tournament. They played and beat a very average Creighton team in round one. Then they got the gift of all gifts against UMBC in the second round as they got to play a sixteen seed rather than the tournament’s number one overall seed, Virginia. Then in the last round, they beat a Kentucky team that finished fourth in the SEC this year.
I don’t want to knock on the Wildcats too much, you still have to win the games. But certainly, no other team has had this easy of a path so far in the tournament. Give the Cats credit, they have taken advantage of it, but they have had a nice easy road to the Elite Eight.
When you look at what Loyola had to do to get here, it’s not close. They beat a good Miami team that played in the nation’s best league this year the ACC, and then beat a very good Tennessee team that won 13 games in the SEC, three more than Kentucky did. Then in the Sweet 16, they had to beat a very strong Nevada Reno team that won 29 games this year.
This line opened as K-State -1.5. It quickly dropped to even. Even though the seeding might show this as an upset tonight, the Loyola Ramblers are the better and more accomplished team. They have done more to get to this point and have a more well-rounded squad.
No games are easy at this level, and the Ramblers have played lots of close games in the tournament, but when the smoke clears, I see them winning and advancing. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Ramblers close out as favorites in this game, I already see a couple -1’s floating around for Loyola.
If you like the Ramblers to win and advance, and you should, jump on it now while it is still at even. This team that has captivated the nation will continue to do it, at least for one more week.
Give me the Loyola Chicago Ramblers at an even pick ‘em tonight!