Michigan to Halt Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella Run in Final Four

loyola hoops

Jay Pryce

Monday, March 26, 2018 12:09 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 26, 2018 12:09 PM UTC

Cinderella Loyola-Chicago catches 5 points against blue-blood Michigan in the first semifinal matchup of the 2018 Final Four at the Alamodome on Saturday (6:09 p.m. ET). Get ready for a gritty, deliberate, defense-first clash. Our money is on the favorite. Here’s why:

No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 MichiganFinal Four, Saturday, Alamodome, San Antonio, 6:09 p.m. ETFree NCAAB Pick: MichiganBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Eleventh-seeded Loyola-Chicago, the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion, has won 14 straight, aiming to become the first double-digit seed in history to play for the NCAA Tournament title. The gap between the mid-major program and the three other blue bloods competing at the Alamodome (Michigan, Villanova and Kansas) has shrunk considerably. The Ramblers rank 30th in KenPom’s college basketball ratings after victories over Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State.

Loyola has made it this far due to its depth, athleticism, and shooting ability. Five players post double figures in points per game, including Clayton Cluster (13.2), Donte Ingram (11.3), Marques Townes (11.2) Aundre Jackson (11.0) and Cameron Krutwig (10.3). Coached by Porter Moser, a disciple of the late Rick Majerus, the Ramblers are adept at finding open looks and spreading the floor. They shoot 40 percent from behind the arc, forcing opponents to fan out and defend the perimeter. Making the extra pass and executing when given the opportunity helps the team to a 58.1 effective field-goal rate, fifth highest nationally.

Minus a true go-to scorer and much size, can Loyola penetrate Michigan’s version of a pack-line defense? The answer will ultimately determine the winner of the matchup. The Wolverines' shot-stopping abilities are on another level late in the season. Since the start of the Big Ten Tournament, the defense is allowing 61.3 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting in seven on neutral hardwood. This includes one overtime game vs. Iowa (77-71) and a lot of garbage points late in a 99-72 rout over Texas A&M. Toss out the Aggies game and adjust for the extra period against the Hawkeyes and points yielded per game dips to 58.8 in regulation time in this span. The unit ranks fourth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings. Coach John Beilein is happy:

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DANCE-OFF@JohnBeilein x @JordanPoole_2 (via @D_Bo20) #GoBlue | #FinalFour pic.twitter.com/63IjrNUQkB

— Michigan Men's Basketball (@umichbball) March 25, 2018
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Beilein has fielded much more talented and dynamic offenses during his tenure in Ann Arbor, but the communication and connection among this group is choice. The attack is centered around big man Moe Wagner. The 6-foot-11 forward leads the team with 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Expect a lot of inside-out play with the Wolverines taking plenty of opportunities from deep. They shoot from long range 43.2 percent of the time, well above the national average (34.1). Crashing the boards on misses and cashing in on close second-chance opportunities is their bread-and-butter. Michigan makes 71.2 percent of shots at the rim, the fourth-highest rate in the country.

Three other 11 seeds have made it to the Final Four and each lost in the semifinals: LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011). Unfortunately, for Sister Jean and the Ramblers, it looks like they will be added to the list. Michigan’s defense is too stout, and it will bail them out of long scoring droughts vs. an inferior team. This is Beilein’s specialty this time of year. Since taking over in 2007, the Wolverines are 19-1 SU and 12-6-2 ATS when favorites on a neutral court in the months of March and April. They are covering a -5.4 average line by 10.7 points per game. The defense yields 61.1 points on 41.3 percent shooting in this situation. Loyola, undersized and ranking 315th in tempo, will be lucky to get out of the 50s here. Michigan wins 67-57 in a lock-down, gritty performance. Lay the 5 points.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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