Do you miss Sister Jean? Well, you might get another opportunity to see her during March Madness, at least virtually. If you think Loyola Chicago is wheeling a 101-year-old out there during the Covid-19 pandemic, then uh, well, no. If Loyola Chicago makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, then I’m sure she’ll be featured on a March Madness broadcast. The Loyola Chicago Ramblers made the Final Four in 2018 to set up an unlikely run from a mid-major.
The Ramblers are at it again in 2021, and might be setting themselves up for another big run. They are No. 21 in the NCAA and have been quietly going about their business in the Missouri Valley Conference. There are two teams from the Missouri Valley that might be able to cause some noise. Not only is it possible that Loyola comes up with big wins in March, but the Drake Bulldogs are a mid-major to pay attention to as well. Drake and Loyola are currently tied in the conference with records of 14-2.
However, the Bulldogs have the advantage with an overall record of 23-2 as opposed to 19-4 for the Ramblers. I’d argue that Loyola has had the tougher schedule, though, so can’t say that Drake is two games better than the Ramblers. They played a two-game series a couple of weeks ago and split at Drake. Loyola blew won the first outing by a score of 81-54 and then Drake responded to edge out the Ramblers, 51-50.
Loyola is coming off a hard-fought 54-52 victory over Valparaiso on February 17. They put that game into cruise control, and nearly paid for it for going through the motions. That kind of effort isn’t going to work in March, but the Ramblers didn’t look very interested in running up the score. Their defensive effort was certainly present, though, which has been the case throughout the season. The Ramblers have an aggressive defense that can frustrate an opponent for 40 minutes.
The Ramblers welcome the 11-11 Southern Illinois Salukis to Chicago tonight. The Salukis were impressive early on with a seven-game winning streak. They quickly found a wall, though, and regressed hard. Southern Illinois has won just four games since beating Evansville on December 27. They are fresh off one of those four wins, as the Salukis downed Valparaiso, 67-64. That was home, though, and Southern Illinois hasn’t cared for going on the road this season. Head below for our free Southern Illinois vs. Loyola Chicago pick on February 26, 2021.
Southern Illinois Salukis vs. Loyola Chicago Ramblers NCAA Betting Odds:
Southern Illinois vs. Loyola Chicago Prediction:
I had high hopes for Southern Illinois after their 76-73 win on the road against the Butler Bulldogs. At the time, Southern Illinois was shooting the lights out, and we didn’t know what kind of team Butler was. I was on Southern Illinois in that contest, so I certainly had confidence in them getting it done. However, the Salukis haven’t had much to celebrate since then. The offense has continually regressed, and likely won’t have an easy time against one of the best defenses in the NCAA on Friday night.
Loyola Chicago is first in the country with 55.7 points against per game. Opponents are shooting just 40.2% against the Ramblers this season. How the defense will hold up against a power team in the NCAA Tournament is the question. We got a sneak peak of that against the Wisconsin Badgers on the road December 15.
Wisconsin pulled away for a 77-63 win, so not the best, but a lot has changed since then. Perhaps a neutral court would be a different story, but as we found out in 2018, if the Ramblers are hot at the right moment, they can go far and exceed what the experts project. The Salukis’ offense stalled out this season and has been unable to regain its footing.
In their previous five games, they’ve netted an average of 59.8 points through their last five outings. They haven’t scored at least 70 points in a game since January 31 against Northern Iowa. That’s eight straight games of the offense misfiring, and in 12 of their previous 13 games, the Salukis have failed to score more than 70 points.
Loyola Chicago may run into problems against an elite offense in the NCAA Tournament, but I see no reason why they can’t hammer Southern Illinois into the floor tonight. The offense has been above average for the Ramblers with 72.3 points scored per game. They are fourth in the NCAA with a field goal percentage of 51.1%.
If Loyola Chicago wanted to score more they could, but the Ramblers don’t go at a frenetic pace. It would be foolish with their lockdown defense. They’ve scored more at home with 76.1 points per game. Their offense slept last game on the road, but expect them to get going tonight. Note that the Salukis are just 3-6 on the road, while Loyola has just one loss with a mark of 11-1. I’m looking at a 75-50 win for Loyola Chicago to win and cover.