The Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago won the national championship back in 1963. That victory had different implications then, because they had four African-American starters and it was during the Civil Rights movement. This season there’s a little less of that kind of “edge” to the atmosphere, but it’s a “feelgood” story that has also been commercialized to a certain extent. Can this team achieve what was thought to be almost impossible at the outset of this NCAA Tournament, by getting to the national title game? This is something we are going to find out on Saturday night, as they tangle with the Michigan Wolverines at the Alamodome in San Antonio (6:05 PM ET).
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2018 Final Four Betting Lines – Loyola-Chicago vs Michigan:
In the 2018 Final Four Betting Lines that have been posted on Saturday’s game at BetAnySports, Loyola finds itself an underdog:
Michigan Wolverines -5.5
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers +5.5
Over 129.5 points -110
Under 129.5 points -110
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Loyola’s record is kind of eye-popping, as the team is 32-5 straight-up and a sizzling 24-9 against the points. So you might say that they are used to exceeding expectations. And every step along the way they have received guidance from the team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who, at age 98, remembers that 1963 team very well. She has become something of a mascot and icon, with her “bubblehead” selling for big bucks on eBay. Yeah, it’s March Madness alright.
The Ramblers gave a lot of people some thrills in their first three games, as they defeated Miami, Tennessee and Nevada by a combined four points. After that, though, the route to the Final Four was surprisingly easy, as they beat Kansas State 78-62, shooting 57% and holding the Wildcats to just 42.5% from two-point range and 23% from downtown. So here they are, and they have proven their case.
Loyola has, by now, become known for many things aside from Sister Jean. This is a very deliberate team, and that isn’t an accident, as head coach Porter Moser is a disciple of the late Rick Majerus, who did like to “slog” a little. But that’s not to say this is not a very efficient offensive team; in fact, they are fifth in the nation in Effective Field Goal Percentage, and they rank ninth nationally in two-point percentage (56.8%) and eleventh in three-point accuracy (40.2%). So they are going to give Michigan plenty to worry about. But don’t get the impression that they are three-point crazy – they only take 35.8% of their shots from beyond the arc. Moser is a coach who emphasizes ball movement, and he gets it. There are not a lot of teams that take up more of the shot clock.
Likewise, there are not a lot of teams who force their opponents to take up as much of the shot clock on defense either. These guys are very efficient on “D,” as they do an especially good job at stopping triples (32.2%, as a matter of fact). Michigan is fully capable of making long-range shots, although the Wolverines are the team more likely to “brick.” Loyola’s best three-point shooter is Clayton Custer, a transfer from Iowa State who was 46.5% accurate on the season. Off the bench comes Aundre Jackson, who averages 11 ppg and, while not a three-point shooter of note, makes 62.5% of his two-pointers. How balanced are the Ramblers? Well, they have five players in the rotation averaging in double figures, yet a 6-3 guard averaging only 7 ppg – Ben Richardson- had 23 points against Kansas State.
In a game that will be carefully played on both sides, don’t count out Loyola’s ability to take this one right down to the wire.
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By Charles Jay