Loyola-Chicago (9-21) vs. Bradley (12-19)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 6, 9:35 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scottrade Center (19,260) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: MVC TV. Home Record: Loyola 8-6, Bradley 11-6. Away Record: Loyola 0-14, Bradley 1-11. Neutral Record: Loyola 1-1, Bradley 0-2. Conference Record: Loyola 4-14, Bradley 7-11. Series Record: Bradley leads, 32-17.
GAME NOTES: The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament's first-round will conclude on Thursday as the 10th seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers square off with the seventh-seeded Bradley Braves at the Scottrade Center.
This winner of this contest will advance to the quarterfinal round to face Indiana State.
The Ramblers finished just one game below the .500 mark last season as a member of the Horizon League, but they did not receive a warm welcome to the MVC. Coach Porter Moser's squad lost six games in a row to close out the regular season and won only four of its 14 MVC contests. Loyola struggled on both ends of the floor as it averaged only 63.9 ppg and allowed 68.4 ppg to its new league rivals.
The Braves also had an unimpressive finish to the regular season with their 55-38 win over Loyola on Feb. 22 marking their only victory in their last six games. Coach Geno Ford places an emphasis on tough defensive play which resulted in an allowance of only 65.8 ppg, the second best scoring defense in the league. However, Bradley also scores an MVC-worst 63.4 ppg on just 41.6 percent efficiency from the floor.
The Ramblers are the only MVC squad Bradley swept in the regular season. The two victories improved Bradley's all-time series lead to 32-17.
Loyola relies on the duo of freshman guard Milton Doyle (15.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) and junior swingman Christian Thomas (13.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Doyle, who originally began his career at Kansas, went ice cold near the end of the season as he hit on only one of his last 12 attempts from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Jeff White also plays a vital role for the Ramblers with 9.6 ppg and 3.1 apg, but he also struggled down the stretch. White was limited to six ppg on 33.3 percent efficiency from the floor. Loyola's lack of depth at the forward position has hurt in on the glass where it ranks second to last in MVC play in rebounding margin (-2.2) and its inexperience gave it the worst turnover margin (-2.78) in league contests.
Bradley consistently ran plays for the conference's leading scorer among active players, Walt Lemon Jr. The senior guard netted 17.8 ppg to rank third in the MVC in scoring and has 1,697 career points, the eighth- most in program history. Lemon also contributes 3.8 apg and is tied for the MVC lead with 2.4 spg. Senior forward Tyshon Pickett posts 11.7 ppg on the season and pulled down an average of 9.8 rpg over his last five games. Sophomore guard Omari Grier also owns a double-digit scoring average at 10.3 ppg, while Central Michigan transfer Auston Barnes contributes 8.6 ppg and 5.7 rpg. The Braves lack a rim protector as their average of 2.6 blocks per game is lower than the average of 31 individual Division I players.
Both of these schools were noticeably weaker outside of their respective home arenas. However, the Braves' only road win came in Chicago over Loyola. The Ramblers will need their key contributors to be more efficient or they will suffer another lopsided loss.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bradley 65, Loyola-Chicago 58
03/06 10:31:01 ET