NCAA Basketball Pick on Loyola over UL Monroe in CBI Game 1

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, March 30, 2015 3:35 PM GMT

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The home team from the Missouri Valley Conference could have the edge Monday night in Game 1 of the best-of-three CBI Tournament Championship Series when the UL Monroe Warhawks (24-12, 9-6 away) out of the Sun Belt Conference pay a visit to those Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (22-13, 12-6 home) at the Joseph J. Gentile Center in Chicago, IL at 8:00 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Loyola-Chicago as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -5½ with odds of -106.


Lower Seed but Better Conference
Loyola is the lower seed in this series, which is why the next two games will be played in Louisiana if this championship goes the maximum three games, but the Ramblers come from the much stronger Missouri Valley Conference that sent Wichita State and Northern Iowa to the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers finished just 8-10 inside the MVC, but apparently butting heads in the ninth ranked conference in the county on the Pomeroy Ratings served them well.

Conversely the Sun Belt Conference is ranked just 19th as a whole according to Pomeroy, and UL Monroe finished tied for second with Georgia Southern with a 14-6 conference mark, one game behind the 15-5 NCAA Tournament darlings from Georgia State. Yes, the Warhawks have been the winning NCAA Basketball picks in the first three rounds of this CBI Tournament to reach this championship series, but they have been far from impressive doing so.


Impressive Post-Season for Loyola
Loyola finished sixth in the MVC, but it has had an impressive post-season that did not begin with this tournament, but actually in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament where the Ramblers routed third seeded Indiana State 81-53 in the quarterfinals before being stifled 63-49 by the tournament champions from Northern Iowa in the semifinals.

The UNI defense can do that to anyone though and after getting a nice challenge from Rider in the first round of this CBI, Loyola has cruised past Oral Roberts and Seattle, most recently routing those Redhawks 63-48 on Wednesday to advance to this championship.

The Ramblers faced some great defenses inside the MVC this season, and yet they are still a very good 41st in the country in effective field goal percentage at 53.1 percent, mainly due to 39.5-percent three-point shooting that ranks 15th in the nation! After a rare off shooting night vs. Rider where Loyola still found a way to win, it has shot 50.0 percent and 40.0 percent respectively from beyond the three-point arc in the last two victories.


Three Straight Upset Wins for Monroe
Now UL Monroe has certainly tuned its program around since Coach Keith Richard took over at his alma mater in 2010, showing steady progress over his first four seasons on the job before breaking through with its current 24-win campaign. In fact, this is the first winning record the program has had under Richard despite an up-spike in its win total every year.

However, once again the competition the Warhawks faced in the Sun Belt must be considered dubious and remember also that they have actually been underdogs in all three wins during this tournament with all of them being narrow wins, first 71-67 at home vs. Eastern Michigan, then 71-69 on the road at Mercer and most recently 71-65 back at home over Vermont on Wednesday.

None of those opponents come from power conferences obviously and in fact neither does Loyola, although the Missouri Valley towers over the conference affiliations of those last three conquests so this should probably be considered a rise in class for Monroe.

The Warhawks have always played good defense under Richard and they are in fact amazingly ninth in the country in effective field goal percentage allowed this season at 44.0 percent. But again, that was vs. a schedule ranked 207th in SOS on Pomeroy, and given that weak slate, the fact that Monroe ranks 268th in offensive efficiency and 303rd in effective field goal percent at 45.7 percent is most distressing.


Ramblers Ranked 28 Spots Higher on Pomeroy
Remember that Loyola is the higher ranked team on the Pomeroy Ratings here at 135th overall compared to only 163rd for UL Monroe, and if the Warhawks cannot contain the Ramblers’ three point shooters as well as they have vs. lesser teams, they simply lack the offense to keep pace here, especially on the road where Monroe shoots an atrocious 39.4 percent while averaging 61.9 points.

Add this all up and look for Loyola-Chicago to draw first blood at home fairly comfortably over UL Monroe in Game 1 of the CBI Championship on Monday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Loyola-Chicago -5½ (-106)