Loyola-Chicago’s Sweet 16 Run Should be No Surprise

Marques Townes

The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are playing the role of Cinderella so far in this year’s NCAA Tournament. They are one of two 11-seeds in the Sweet 16; the other being Syracuse. With the Orange getting set to face Duke on Friday, Loyola could soon be the lone double-digit seed left.

Loyola-Chicago’s Sweet 16 Run Should be No Surprise

The Ramblers will take on Nevada Thursday to see who will move forward to the Elite Eight. Nevada pulled off a miracle win against Cincinnati in the second round. Loyola has won their first two games of the tournament with shots to take the lead in the final two seconds. They have used patience, experience and of course, Sister Jean, to fuel their Cinderella run.

Loyola may have been penciled in as an 11-seed but their run to the Sweet 16 was easy to predict and it is not over yet.

Season In-Review

Loyola is a team dominated by upperclassmen. They start two seniors in Donte Ingram and Ben Richardson and two juniors, Marques Townes and Clayton Custer. Cameron Krutwig is the lone freshman in the rotation. Townes has been dancing before as a member of Fairleigh Dickinson in 2016.

Custer led the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game but the Ramblers were not afraid to share the basketball. They had four players other than Custer average double-digits. As a team, they scored 71.9 points per game and only gave up 62.2.

This was the reason they entered the tournament with a 28-5 record and a mark of 15-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. This was a conference they won by four games and earned an automatic bid by winning the championship.

The Ramblers started the season 7-0 and are currently on an 11-game win streak. Their best win of the year came on December 6 when they took down #5 Florida, 65-59.

Favorable Matchups

It may sound strange to say that an 11-seed had a favorable run to the Sweet 16 but for Loyola, it was true.  They came into the tournament preparing for the classic 11-6 upset match-up. Miami was the sixth-seed but most of the public seemed to be on Loyola. It took a last second three by the Ramblers to win it but they got it done.

The Round of 32 brought them Tennessee, who was generously handed a third-seed.  Loyola built a second half lead but in March, no game is easy. It took a last second bounce off the rim to advance them to the Sweet 16.

On Thursday, they will take on seven-seed Nevada. They caught a break when Nevada erased a 22-point deficit to come back and beat Cincinnati. The South region of the bracket was completely blown up in the first weekend. The top four seeds have all been knocked out and it leaves five, seven, nine and 11 seeds left to compete for a Final Four spot.

If Loyola takes home a win, they will await the winner of Kentucky and Kansas State in the Elite Eight.

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