For a day where there are so few games on the Men’s NCAA College Basketball schedule, just 24 in total, we still manage to have several games that are going to have NCAA tournament implications. The headliner comes to us from Lubbock as the Red Raiders of Teas Tech will look to slow down a red-hot Oklahoma Sooners team. The Red Raiders snapped their 2-game losing streak, knocking off LSU in the SEC/Big-12 Challenge in their last game, and would love to make it back-to-back quality victories tonight over the Sooners. For Oklahoma, the Sooners have won 5 straight games including huge wins over Kansas, Texas, and Alabama and are amongst the hottest teams in the nation right now.
Another matchup in the national spotlight. It's Big Monday!
— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) February 1, 2021
Georgia Tech and Louisville will square off in Kentucky, with both teams trying to play themselves onto the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble. Both teams are in the middle of the pack in a down ACC this year, and the winner of that game is going to have a step up on the loser come March. Other ACC action includes Duke trying to turn their season around at Miami, as the Blue Devils have slowly snuck up the standings in the ACC.
Other games of note include a showdown in the Missouri Valley Conference where Loyola-Chicago looks for the season sweep over Missouri State. The Ramblers are hoping to keep pace with the Drake Bulldogs in the MVC, who barely survived last night against Illinois State to stay undefeated. Those two will run it back again tonight, with Drake trying to run their record to 17-0. UCF plays at Memphis, in AAC action, with the Tigers badly needing a win to stay on the selection committee’s radar. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to Springfield, Missouri, for the game between Loyola-Chicago and Missouri State.
- Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (14-3) at Missouri State Bears (9-4)
- JQH Arena, Springfield
- 5:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPN+
The Missouri State Bears are looking to stop the bleeding tonight, after losing their last three games, as they host the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago. The Bears got swept at home by undefeated Drake last week, and they lost the front end of a back-to-back series with Loyola-Chicago last night, and another loss tonight would end any shot of the Bears getting at-large consideration into the NCAA tournament. The Bears had started their season by winning nine out of their first ten games before this recent skid.
GAME DAY No. 2⃣ in Missouri!
— Loyola Men's Basketball (@RamblersMBB) February 1, 2021
For Loyola-Chicago, the Ramblers need a win tonight, as they trail Drake in the loss column for first place in the MVC standings. On the surface, the Ramblers seem to be a lock to be playing in the NCAA tournament, as Kenpom has them ranked 16th in the nation right now, but the Ramblers only have one win over the national top-100, and they must continue to dominate in league play if they want any shot of hearing their names called on Selection Sunday.
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (14-3)
The schedule makers weren’t overly kind to the Ramblers this year, particularly in conference play. The Missouri Valley has six teams that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league in Loyola-Chicago, Drake, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Indiana State, and Bradley. The MVC decided that the best way to limit exposure to COVID-19 would be to have these teams play most of their league games back-to-back on one team’s home floor. That was a reasonable decision as many small conferences decided to do the same thing, but when you look at how that worked out for the Ramblers, they get the short end of the stick.
Loyola-Chicago played both of their games against Bradley, Indiana State, and now Missouri State, all on the road. Only the series against Northern Iowa was played in Chicago. Later this season, the Ramblers will ramble their way to Drake to play the Bulldogs, again with both games coming on the road, this time with the MVC regular season title likely on the line.
Loyola-Chicago has managed to continue their dominance in these tough spots as they are 9-1 in conference play, with the lone loss coming at Indiana State early last month. There is absolutely no room for error for these mid-major programs in league play, you either win most of your games, or you are going to get left out in March.
Missouri State Bears (9-4)
I have faded Missouri State in their last three games, and all three times they lost and failed to cover. Unlike Loyola-Chicago, the Bears got to play their toughest conference games at home, as they hosted Drake for two games before turning right back around and hosting Loyola-Chicago for back-to-back games. And while the Bears 9-1 record looked great on the surface, I knew that these would be the toughest games of the year for Missouri State, and I just felt that weren’t on the same level as either of these teams.
The Bears did an admirable job against Drake, keeping the games competitive, but last night, the Bears got embarrassed on their home floor as the Ramblers ran them off the court. Loyola-Chicago jumped out to a 22-4 lead and eventually punished the Bears 72-46, calling off the wolves in the second half after hitting halftime with a 25-point lead. Will Missouri State be able to save any face tonight and protect their home floor against a Ramblers team that seems destined to make another deep run in March Madness?
Who Do I Like?
This is a fairly interesting number. In last night’s game, the Ramblers were laying -5.5-points. We already talked about how that game wasn’t competitive in the slightest, so it is pretty shocking to see Missouri State only getting a couple more points tonight in the exact same matchup. With the Bears getting zero time to adjust or adapt to the Ramblers, I don’t see this game being too much more competitive than last night’s affair.
Yeah, the Bears looked much better in the second half than in the first, so maybe that was a sign that they started to figure this Ramblers team out a bit? Or maybe it was just Loyola-Chicago knowing that they had to play again tonight and pulling back the reigns in a blowout?
It’s hard to ever expect a team to get smashed so badly early in a game like Missouri State did last night, and so while they are likely going to be more competitive tonight than they were last night, they are still going to lose this game, by a lot.
Loyola-Chicago could have won by 50-points last night if they really wanted to. By the end of the game, the Ramblers emptied their bench, and the entire team got a chance to play. Instead of needlessly running up the score, they rested their best players and will be able to dominate again tonight, in a game that they know is a must-win. The NCAA selection committee doesn’t give a lot of love to mid-major programs that schedule soft in the non-conference, and the Ramblers know that they can’t let another winnable game sneak away tonight.
Expect another fast start, and knowing that they head home with a 5-day break after this one, don’t be surprised if the Ramblers leave their foot on the gas a little bit longer than they did last night. The scary part about the Rambler’s dismantling of Missouri State? They shot an abysmal 2-11 from the perimeter.
When you can brick that many shots and still blow the other team out by 26-points on their own floor, you are just a significantly better basketball team. Expect more of the same tonight as the Ramblers win this one going away. Give me Loyola-Chicago, laying -7.5-points, as they again smash Missouri State on the road. I’ll call the final score at 70-54 Loyola-Chicago!