When I filled out my bracket, I had the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers losing in the first round to the Miami (FL) Hurricanes.
Despite that bad pick, the rest of my bracket has been fairly good. I correctly picked three of the Final Four teams.
The one team I didn’t pick correctly? Those damn Ramblers, who have been the darlings of the NCAA Tournament. The same Ramblers who knocked off a 6 seed, 3 seed, 7 seed and 9 seed — all higher seeds than them.
They will face another 3 seed this Saturday in the Final Four as they take on the just-as-hot Michigan Wolverines, who are coming off a four-point victory over Florida State in the
Orange Bowl Elite Eight.
So what do the Wolverines have in store for them Saturday night? Let’s take a look.
- Conference: Missouri Valley
- Record: 32-5
- Winning streak: 14
- Last loss: Jan. 31 (69-67 at Bradley)
- Offensive rank: T-224th, 72.0 points per game
- Defensive rank: 5th, 62.4 points allowed per game
The Ramblers’ offensive stats don’t look good, but in the tournament alone they are hitting 53.8 percent of their field goals (8th in Division I postseason), 70.6 percent of their free throws (74th) and 41.7 percent of their 3’s (25th). They haven’t been messing around on offense, to say the least.
But throughout the entirety of the season, the Ramblers focus in on defense and allow that to right the ship offensively. The Ramblers have not given up 70 points at all during the tournament and have given up just 62 points in three of their four games. In fact, we have to go all the way back to Feb. 14 for the last time they gave up 70 or more (71 against Valparaiso).
From an individual standpoint, Loyola-Chicago has five players that average at least 10 points per game — Clayton Custer (13.2), Donte Ingram (11.3), Marques Townes (11.2), Aundre Jackson (11.0) and Cameron Krutwig (10.3). Four of those five hit at least 50 percent of their field goals and 73 percent of their free throws —the lone player not in that category being Ingram.
Jackson is the Ramblers’ leading scorer in the tournament with 49 points on 20-of-33 shooting. He is a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line, but has a surprisingly low 18.5 minutes per game in their four tourney games.
Lost in all the hoopla of the Sister Jean media honeymoon is how good this team really is. They can shoot, they can defend, and they play as a team.
Sounds like a certain team we all know quite well, right?
The Wolverines and Ramblers are on a combined 27-game winning streak. For all the hype of Villanova/Kansas, this is going to be a fantastic Final Four matchup.