They’ve tied LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), and VCU (2011) as the lowest seed to make a Final Four. By winning against Michigan, they can become the first 11 seed to make the title game.
Michigan is trying to become the second Big Ten team to win a national championship in the last four years. Wisconsin pulled off the feat in 2015, and the Wolverines now have a chance to do the same.
The Wolverines no doubt have the talent edge. But so far, Loyola has been unfazed by the slew of 4 and 5-star recruits they faced.
I’ll discuss if they can topple another giant, or at least cover their spread. Also keep in mind that you can wager on this game via GTBets.
Loyola Chicago vs. Michigan Odds – 6:05pm on March 31 (Saturday)
- Michigan -5.5 / -270 moneyline
- Loyola Chicago +5.5 / +230
- Over/under 129.5
Why Michigan Will Cover -5.5
Case in point, they’ve held their tournament opponents to 47, 62, 72, and 58 points. I’m betting that upcoming contest against Loyola doesn’t make it out of the 60s.
Aside from holding opponents to low scores, the Wolverines also rank fourth in the nation in defense efficiency and force opposing teams into 38% shooting.
Given that Michigan always brings the defense, it’s no surprise that they find ways to win games. During their current 13-game winning streak, they’ve won eight of these contests by double digits.
And although they’re not great on offense, they somehow mustered 99 points against Texas A&M in their Sweet 16 contest. This is the most points scored by a Michigan NCAA Tournament team since 1992.
Beilein has led his second Michigan team to the Final Four in the last six years. He’s also produced a school-record 32 wins.
Both teams that won the previous record of 31 games advanced to the national title. This is a good omen for a Wolverines squad that has a realistic chance of pulling off the same feat.
One more bit of good history for this team is that they’re 6-1 all time in semi-final games, which is the best ever of any team with at least five appearances.
Charles Matthews leads this Wolverines squad with 16.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG in the tournament so far. He’s especially good in non-conference showdowns, averaging 17.4 PPG and shooting over 56% from the floor.
Another key factor for Michigan will be Xavier Simpson, who’s done a great job of shutting down opposing point guards. During Michigan’s tournament run, opposing the guards have only averaged 11.8 PPG on 34.6% shooting. They also have just eight assists compared to 13 turnovers.
This is big, because Simpson will match up against Missouri Valley Player of the Year Clayton Cluster. If he can shut down Loyola’s top player, then the Wolverines have a great chance to win this contest.
It also doesn’t bode well for the Ramblers that they’ve had turnover issues throughout the season. They turn over the ball on 19% of their possessions, which ranks a dismal 218th in the nation. This is another area that Michigan can take advantage of in a possible victory.
Why Loyola Will Cover +5.5
The reason why Loyola has made a surprise Final Four run is that they’re extremely efficient. They’ve shot 53% from the field, which is better than any tournament team with at least two games played. They’re also hitting almost 42% of their three-point shots.
And it’s not just one guy who’s filling the basket up. Instead, the Ramblers have had a different leading scorer in each of their four tournament contests.
A perfect example of this is Ben Richardson, who was the South Region’s Most Outstanding player, despite averaging just 7 PPG on the regular season. He scored 23 points in the Elite Eight matchup against Kansas State to claim these honors.
Another thing that the Ramblers do really well is drive to the basket. Of their 274 points in March Madness so far, 136 of these have come in the paint. This, despite the fact that they don’t have anybody taller than 6’6″ in the regular rotation. Loyola has multiple players who can put the ball on the floor and finish, meaning Michigan can’t slack off when guarding anybody.
The Ramblers have also been really good on defense, ranking 19th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The key behind their strong play has been forcing opponents to just 32.2% three-point shooting, which ranks the top 30 nationally. They’ve stepped things up in the tournament, holding opposing teams to less than 30% three-point shooting.
Another driving force behind their success is the fact that Loyola guards well without fouling. They rank 15th of the nation in fewest fouls per game. But even if they do foul Michigan, the latter has shot poorly from the free throw line (66%, 326th nationally).
Outside of their first-round contest against Miami, the Ramblers have been counted out in every game they’ve played thus far in the tournament. This time won’t be any different, because they face a Michigan team with superior talent.
They’re also trying to become the first Cinderella to actually make the championship game. Double-digit seeded teams are 0 for 4 in the Final Four. But Loyola plays such a good team game that I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the first double digit seed to advance to the title.
Final Thoughts on Michigan vs. Loyola
The Ramblers are the only team that’s hotter than Michigan right now. They’ve won 14 straight games, which is one more than the Wolverines. The last time that Loyola tasted defeat was a January 31 contest against Bradley.
One reason why teams have had such a problem with Loyola in the tournament is because they don’t beat themselves. This team is efficient on offense and they play strong defense. They also rebound the ball relatively well for their lack of height, holding teams to one shot on 75% of their possessions.
Loyola’s starting lineup is mostly around the same height, allowing them to switch defenders on multiple positions. This can be a problem for Michigan, because they like to take advantage of mismatches.
On the Wolverines side, they undoubtedly have the talent edge. This includes 6’11” Moritz Wagner, who can play inside while also shooting 40% from the three-point line.
Loyola doesn’t anybody talented enough to cover Wagner one on one. If the big man gets going, then Michigan has a strong chance to not only win but also cover their spread.
Final Score Prediction: Michigan wins 67-60 and covers their +5 spread