One of the most wonderful times of year in the world of sports is quickly coming to an end, as this weekend the men’s Final Four takes place on Saturday, with the National Title game taking place on Monday.
The question now is who wins it all in one of the craziest NCAA Tournaments in recent memory.
Most people will tell you Villanova or Kansas will win it all.
Some might say it is because they are the two number one seeds left or its just common sense.
Some might say the Wolverines from Michigan will win the title.
As for why Michigan, you might hear something like the Big 10 is great so there for Michigan will win or that John Beilein’s club has been overlooked all year and most people will make that mistake two more times this year.
Then you have the Ramblers from Loyola-Chicago.
They have been the tournaments Cinderella in 2018, in fact, the Ramblers are just the fourth 11 seed to make the Final Four in the history of the tournament.
They join LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011) as the only 11 seeds to make it to the tournament’s final weekend.
So, why not pick Loyola?
Well, some people might tell you they won’t get it done because the other three 11 seeds to make the Final Four have all lost in the semifinals.
Some might tell you that luck can only take you so far and that making the Final Four and winning three games off of buzzer beaters have used up all of the Ramblers luck.
Some might even go as far as to say that Sister Jean’s magic can only go so far.
However, in this article telling you why Loyola won’t win is not the point. In fact, that is the complete opposite of the point of this article. So, here are the reasons why Loyola-Chicago will do what the other three 11 seeds to make the Final Four have failed to do and win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Why the Ramblers beat Michigan.
Michigan will be one of the hardest tests that Porter Moser’s club has faced in the tournament so far.
Beilein’s Wolverines are lead in scoring by Moritz Wagner, a 6-11 junior forward from Berlin, Germany.
Wagner has scored 530 points this year and is shooting 52 percent from the field and a solid 39 percent from behind the three-point line.
Wagner is one of three Wolverines that average double digits in points, the other two being guard’s Charles Matthews (13) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.8). Duncan Robinson isn’t far off the pace as he averages 9.5 points per game.
Michigan also has three players over 6’8″ that plays over 12 minutes a game. Jon Teske who stands at 7’1″averages just short of 13 minutes a game and the other two Michigan big men are Robinson and Wagner who typically play most of the game for the Wolverines.
Michigan’s hight and ability to share scoring responsibility will challenge the Ramblers.
However, the ability to share the basketball is an obstacle Loyola has already overcome once in the tournament when they beat Tennessee in the round of 32.
speaking of the ability to share the basketball, that is something Loyola does incredibly well.
The Ramblers have five players that average double-digit points.
As for there ball movement, well…
To be completely honest there have been times in this tournament you could have mistaken Loyola for the Golden State Warriors with how well they move the ball and their ability to have anyone go off for a big night.
You can limit one scorer for a team with double teams and focus in on not letting that one player beat you. However, when you have five players that average double digits it’s imposable to take away all of them.
Loyola’s ability to pass the ball and them never having to solely rely on one person to score the ball is why they once again overcome the odds and make it to Monday’s title game.
Plus the Ramblers have been the underdogs for most people the entire tournament, with some saying this is the game they lose every time they took the court.
so, the fact that Michigan is a five and a half point favorite will only help keep the Ramblers head on their shoulders.
Why they beat Kansas.
This article will look at both of the possible opponents for the title game and we get started off with the Jayhawks from Kansas.
Once again the Ramblers will face a team that can pass the ball and score at a high level.
The Jayhawks have five players that average double digits in points per game just like Loyola.
Kansas relays heavily on Devonte’ Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick, all of whom average over 3o minutes a game. Loyola is good at getting to the line and has found a way of getting key players in early foul trouble, but it’s their ability to get to the line that is important.
Against Miami they took nine free throws and made four of them, against Tennessee they went to the line 16 times and made 11, against Nevada the Ramblers shot eight free throws and made six of them and finally against K-State they shot 18 free throws and made 15 of them.
So, through their first four games of the tournament Loyola has taken 51 free throws.
What may be even more impressive is that of the 51 free throws they have taken Loyola has made 36 of them. That equals out to them shooting 71 percent from the line. To beat Kansas you have to make your free throws and you have to get to the line.
Two things that the Ramblers have been great at so far in the tournament and will do it once again verse the Jayhawks.
Kansas is a blue blood in college basketball and some teams fold under the presser of playing a team with a brand like Kansas.
That won’t be a problem for the Ramblers, so far they have played an ACC, SEC and Big 12 team in the tournament.
Now, none of them have the same brand as Kansas with the Jayhawks in-state rival Kansas State being the biggest name of the bunch.
The point is they have played high-level teams and much bigger brands than their own. Plus they are battle tested against power-five teams, as the Ramblers took out Florida earlier in the year.
The Jayhawks are battle-tested as well, playing in a more competitive Big 12 than in years past. However, the Big 12 is more competitive doesn’t equal it being a better league than normal. If anything the league was down this year, but Big 12 teams have played well in the NCAA Tournament this year.
The Ramblers have proven not to be scared of the big stage, big games, close games or game winners. They have been said to have divine intervention from more than just Sister Jean.
Loyola gets it done over KU thanks to there ability to come up big in the biggest of moments.
Why they beat Villanova.
Villanova will be the most difficult challenge of the season for Loyola if that is there title game opponent.
Most people will tell you that the Wildcats have been the best team in the country all year.
Even if they won’t go that far, you will find plenty of people who will tell you that Nova was the best team most of the year.
However, this is a one and done situation and the best team for the year or overall doesn’t always win in a one and done situation. Loyola will be the underdog yet again which as stated above is a role they will be comfortable in.
Nova is good make no mistake about it, but plenty of teams that are better on paper lose. Plenty of teams that on film or in games may be the better of the two teams playing still lose. That’s why you play the game and the Ramblers have more momentum than anyone.
The Wildcats have been on this stage recently whereas Loyola hasn’t been on this kind of stage since 1963 when the Rambler won the National Title and also got a major win for racial justice.
Again Loyola won’t be scared of Nova, their brand, players, coach or experience.
You beat Villanova by getting points without the clock running, something again as stated earlier the Ramblers is good at doing.
You also have to shoot well, again something Loyola does well.
Loyola has shot 51 percent from the floor, 72 percent from the line and 40 percent from three-point range this season.
The Ramblers have shot close to those numbers during the tournament and will once again if they play Nova. It’s their ability to get to the line, shot well and share the basketball that will lift the Ramblers over Nova if that is the matchup in the National Title game.
Let’s sum it up.
Clayton Custer, Ben Richardson, Marques Townes, Donte Ingram and Cameron Krutwing have already carved their names into the history books and in the minds of die-hard college basketball fans.
So, they have nothing to a loss at this point.
The other three 11 seeds to make the Final Four have all lost in the semifinals, they will be underdogs versus Michigan and whoever they face in the title game. Maybe their luck has run out and Sister Jean’s magic is all used up.
Or maybe… just maybe, all of those things are why Loyola-Chicago wins it all.
Why not pick them, most people haven’t since the tournament got underway. Yet, here they are, so what do you have to lose by jumping on the bandwagon at this point.
If for no other reason here’s why the Ramblers win it all.
As the great poet Elwood Blue once said, they’re on a mission from God.
So, when the Ramblers win it all on Monday night, don’t forget to blast some sweet home Chicago.
Written by: Sam Forman
Edited by: Matthew Peterson