The Loyola Rambers, your favorite Final Four team, is set to square up with the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday and will seek a trip to the National Championship. This is the first Final Four appearance since the 1960s for Loyola and the first for Head Coach Porter Moser.
Michigan, one of the most consistent NCAA Tournament teams in the past few years, looks to be the team to knock Cinderella out of the tournament. What then, exactly, does Loyola need to do in order to come out on top and advance to Monday’s National Championship game?
Smart Basketball is Winning Basketball
Loyola has done well this tournament getting out in transition. However, not only that, this team is amazingly smart on offense.
The Ramblers’ offensive efficiency ranking is 60th in the country, while their adjusted tempo ranks over 300th nationally. This means that while Loyola plays a very slow tempo of basketball, much like Michigan, its shot selection is smart and deliberate. Loyola will need to rely on what they do well in order to take down Michigan.
Continue to Spread the Offense Around
Loyola is an anomaly in the sense that it has five players who score in double figures. Even more interesting is the fact that their top scorer and their fifth scorer are separated by a mere 2.9 points per game.
With only 15 points per game coming off the bench, Loyola relies on its top five scorers to carry them throughout that game. If Loyola plans to take down Michigan, they will need Clayton Custer, Donte Ingram, Merques Townes, Aundre Jackson, and Cameron Krutwig scoring at will.
Someone Must Step Up For Loyola
Michigan is well coached and has a strong defensive roster. Coach John Beilein will have a week to prepare for Loyola, and I expect his defense to try and smother the Ramblers’ starters.
The Wolverines will likely attempt to pressure Loyola into mistakes by utilizing double teams throughout the game. That will leave someone open quite a bit for the Ramblers. Whoever that player is, whether starter or bench player, will have to get set up and prepared to make a huge impact in this matchup.
My pick? Lucas Williamson.
This will be the toughest matchup yet for Loyola in this tournament. Loyola will need to play its best game of the season if it hopes to win.
Michigan has one of the best coaches in the Big Ten leading it, and he should have the Wolverines prepared for this game.
That said, there is something about this team and what they have done this season. I think the Ramblers will move on with a defensive stop to end the game, winning 62-60.