The Sweet 16 gets underway Saturday afternoon in the Midwest Region with a matchup between the No. 8 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers. The game will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with the Ramblers favored by 6.5 points and the over/under set at 125.5 points.
The Beavers are the second-lowest seed still left in the tournament. It’s worth remembering that Oregon State needed to win the Pac-12 Tournament just to get into the Big Dance.
But after winning three in a row during the conference tournament, the Beavers have stayed hot, knocking off both Tennessee and Oklahoma State. In total, Oregon State has won five in a row and eight of nine.
Meanwhile, the Ramblers are fresh off perhaps the most impressive win in the tournament by any team. Loyola took care of Georgia Tech in the First Round but then shocked top-seeded Illinois in the Round of 32. The Loyola defense slowed down one of the country’s hottest teams in a 71-58 win, putting the Ramblers just two wins away from a second improbable trip to the Final Four in the last four years.
The Man in the Middle
Offensively, everything Loyola does revolve around senior center Cameron Krutwig. He started on the Final Four team in 2018 and is the only player to average double figures for the Ramblers during the season. He was huge against Illinois, recording 19 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists, doing so against Kofi Cockburn, one of the best big men in the country.
Of course, the key for the Ramblers, outside of their defense, is getting offensive contributions from players other than Krutwig. Fellow senior Lucas Williamson has been the player to step up thus far.
He scored 21 points against Georgia Tech and 14 more against Illinois. Despite averaging just 8.8 points per game during the season, he’s hit double figures in five of his last six games. Meanwhile, Braden Norris, Keith Clemson, and Marquise Kennedy also scored in double figures once in Loyola’s first two tournament games, so the Ramblers are far from a one-man team.
One way or another, the Oregon State offense has found a way to be efficient during the NCAA Tournament. Against Tennessee, the Beavers made 10 of 21 three-point attempts to seize control of the game.
Against Oklahoma State, the Beavers got to the free-throw line 35 times, converting 32 freebies. They also out-rebounded the Cowboys by 20, dominating the paint.
Center Roman Silva has been a surprising key to success. He’s more than doubled his scoring and rebounding production from the regular season and has blocked seven shots in two games. Meanwhile, the backcourt of Ethan Thompson and Jarod Lucas has been excellent late in the season, with senior guard Zach Reichle being an X-factor because of his shooting ability.
In fairness to the Beavers, their two wins in this tournament are no fluke. But the Ramblers were unbelievable against Illinois. They also have the tournament pedigree and a versatile big man in Krutwig.
Look for Loyola to remain strong defensively and find enough offense to win and cover against Oregon State.
Pick: Loyola -6.5
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