The 2020-21 NCAA Tournament has been full of surprises and upsets. Loyola-Chicago versus Oregon State is one of the surprising Sweet Sixteen games. After pulling off major upsets, both Loyola-Chicago and Oregon State are playing at their peak. There are several keys and players to watch in the upcoming Sweet Sixteen battle.
Keys for Loyola-Chicago
Loyola-Chicago playing in the Sweet Sixteen is not a major surprise when considering their lockdown defense. The Ramblers are one of the top defenses in the nation. In the first round, Loyola-Chicago held Georgia Tech to 60 points. Also, Loyola-Chicago only allowed 58 points against Illinois, one of the top offenses in the country.
The Ramblers’ perimeter defense has been menacing in the first two rounds. They held Georgia Tech to 3/10 from three and Illinois to 4/14 from three. Perimeter defense will be big against Oregon State. Against Tennessee, Oregon State shot 10/21 from three.
Another key for Loyola-Chicago is free throw attempts. Georgia Tech attempted five free throws and Illinois attempted 13 free throws against Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers must continue to limit their fouls versus Oregon State. To clarify, Oregon State shot 35 free throws in their win against Oklahoma State. In addition, Oregon State ranks 63rd in 14.8 free throws made per game.
Ball movement is the last key for Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers average an impressive 15.6 assists per game. In the first two rounds, Loyola-Chicago’s ball movement has been crisp. They are averaging 17 assists in the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers dissected the Illinois defense with impressive ball movement.
Keys for Oregon State
Oregon State playing in the Sweet Sixteen is a major surprise. Their defense and rebounding has been fantastic in the first two rounds. These two trends must continue for the Beavers.
First off, Oregon State typically allows opponents to shoot 43.4%. Opponent shooting percentage has dropped significantly in the last two games. Oregon State held Tennessee to 33.3% and Oklahoma State to 27.7%. Oregon State’s upcoming opponent shoots 49.7%, which is sixth in the country. Loyola-Chicago is a very efficient offense, and Oregon State needs to slow them down.
On the year, Oregon State retrieves 34.1 rebounds per game. However, they are averaging 46.5 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament. Oregon State outrebounded Tennessee by seven and Oklahoma State by 20. Loyola-Chicago has outrebounded their last two opponents by 13 and three. Obviously both teams have rebounded well in the tournament. Rebounding could easily decide this matchup. Oregon State has been dominate on the glass, this must continue.
Both teams have impressive players. There are two key matchups to watch. One is Oregon State’s star guard Ethan Thompson versus Loyola-Chicago’s defensive stud Lucas Williamson. Williamson won defensive player of the year in the Missouri Valley conference. Also, Williamson is coming off an outstanding performance holding Ayo Dosunmu to nine points. Oregon State’s Thompson is coming off a 26 point game. Surely, Williamson will defend Thompson. This matchup will have a huge impact on the game.
Additionally, the two frontcourts should be a major factor. Cameron Krutwig is Loyola-Chicago’s lead scorer. Krutwig is coming off a monster game versus Illinois. He scored plenty and picked apart the Illinois defense. Two key frontcourt players for Oregon State are Roman Silva and Maurice Calloo. Silva did not miss a shot while scoring 16 against Tennessee. Also, Calloo poured in 15 against Oklahoma State. Silva is 7-foot-1 and Calloo is 6-foot-10. Krutwig is only 6-foot-9, but he handled the 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn. In addition, the rebounding battle will likely be decided in the frontcourt. Both frontcourts have performed well , this will be a huge matchup.
Overall, both teams are playing great right now. Loyola-Chicago has been here and done that after a Final Four run in 2018. Also, Loyola-Chicago’s performance against Illinois cannot be overstated. They dominated from start to finish against one of the premier teams in college basketball. Loyola-Chicago has been the more consistent team this year as well. The game should be competitive, but look for the Ramblers to pull away late.
Prediction: 74-61 Loyola-Chicago
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Team Rankings.