Among the many beautiful things about March Madness is the notion that any team can make it. Every conference gets one automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Most automatic bids are awarded to the winner of each respective conference tournament. Each article will preview a different conference tournament with a full bracket breakdown.
8 Bradley def. 9 Southern Illinois
7 Northern Iowa def. 10 Illinois State
1 Loyola Chicago def. 8 Bradley
4 Indiana State def. 5 Evansville
2 Drake def. 7 Northern Iowa
3 Missouri State def. 6 Valparaiso
1 Loyola Chicago def. 4 Indiana State
3 Missouri State def. 2 Drake
1 Loyola Chicago def. 3 Missouri State
Another preeminent favorite is set to win a conference tournament. The Ramblers are 21-4 with a spotless 14-0 record against Q3 and Q4 teams. KenPom rates Loyola as 2nd among all teams in adjusted defensive efficiency but there’s no need to adjust their regular defensive numbers. No opponent has scored more than 58 points against Loyola since December contributing to their 55.7 points per game allowed, best in Division I. The Ramblers are also one of eight teams to shoot over 50% from the floor. This team also has experience on their side. Seniors Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson were members of the 2017-18 Ramblers that made the Final Four. It’s no certainty that Loyola would earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament making this automatic bid a necessity.
Sometimes sleepers aren’t flashy teams or noteworthy teams. Most of Indiana State’s statistical profile shows an average team that has decent wins and iffy losses. The key moment this season for the Sycamores was beating Loyola Chicago 76-71 in early January. Since then, no team has swept a two-game series against Indiana State. They are the team most likely to pull some early round magic against Loyola.
Matchup to Watch
Drake vs Missouri State
The Bulldogs were on track for a phenomenal season before an injury to their star player derailed their season. Shanquan Hemphill hasn’t played in almost a month and Drake has lost twice in that span. Now starting guard Roman Penn is also done for the season with a broken foot. In January, the full-strength Bulldogs won back-to-back road games against Missouri State. Now in the third meeting, the Bears may have the upper hand. This feels like an inevitable semifinal matchup that should be one of the most competitive in the whole draw.
Featured Image courtesy of gosycamores.com
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