Loyola Chicago vs. Ohio State Betting Odds, Predictions: Our Top Pick for Friday’s NCAA Tournament Matchup
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Loyola Chicago vs. Ohio State Odds
|Loyola Chicago Odds|
-110o / -110u
|Ohio State Odds|
-110o / -110u
After losing to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the opening round last year, Ohio State will be on high alert of getting upset as a higher seed once again this year.
This time, the Buckeyes aren’t even favored by oddsmakers, as they take on perennial mid-major powerhouse Loyola Chicago in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Loyola Chicago made the Sweet 16 last year after beating Georgia Tech and No. 1 seed Illinois, and most of that team is back this season.
The Ramblers struggled through the end of the regular season in Missouri Valley Conference play, but found their form in the conference tournament.
The Ramblers won and covered the spread in all three games, as the return of Marquise Kennedy bolstered them considerably.
While Loyola is trending up, Ohio State finished the season with four losses in five games. Since winning at Illinois, injuries and defensive regression have come for the Buckeyes, who now fit the profile of a team on early upset alert once again.
The Ramblers are sure to be a popular bracket and against the spread pick because of past tournament success, even though Drew Valentine is in his first season as head coach of Loyola Chicago.
In the first year post-Porter Moser, the Ramblers are back in the tournament and primed to make a run. Meanwhile, Moser’s Sooners are in the NIT.
Under Valentine, the offense took a massive step forward. The Ramblers played a bit like Villanova, at a slow pace (310th in tempo) with crisp passing (46th in assist rate) before working their way toward open 3-point jumpers (54th in 3-point rate).
And the Ramblers shoot the lights out. Loyola ranked 14th nationally in 3-point percentage (38%), 12th in spot-up PPP (1.071) and 16th in catch-and-shoot 3-point ShotQuality PPP (1.18).
It’s led to a lot of points.
The defense took a step back, maybe because Cameron Krutwig isn’t patrolling the paint anymore. But Valentine rallied the troops during the Arch Madness run. The Ramblers allowed 50 points to Bradley, 43 points to Northern Iowa and 58 points to Drake.
If the Ramblers continue to shoot well and the defense trends up, this is a sleeper Sweet 16 or Elite Eight team. Look out.
The story for the Chris Holtmann-led Buckeyes is the same: Ohio State is dangerous offensively and mediocre defensively.
Holtmann doubled down on this philosophy this season, grabbing former Mr. Ohio Basketball Malaki Branham to bolster the scoring. Branham won Big Ten Freshman of the Year behind a string of late-season performances. Branham averaged 20.8 points per game in his last eight games.
In the end, Ohio State played through E.J. Liddell and thrived. The Buckeyes finished 13th nationally in offensive efficiency and 20th in eFG% (54.8%).
They ran ball-screens well, posted-up efficiently — especially with Kyle Young and Joey Brunk off the bench — and shot the ball well.
But there’s no reason to trust the defense — not when it finished 130th in defensive efficiency. The perimeter defense was particularly bad, as Holtmann never had his guys pressure the ball, and they struggled against ball-screens.
While it’s always intriguing to back an electric offense, Holtmann still hasn’t made it past the second round of the tournament with Ohio State.
Loyola Chicago vs. Ohio State Betting Pick
Editor's Note: Zed Key and Kyle Young will both be available today, according to Tom Withers of the AP.
Zed Key and Young — two of Ohio State’s best big men — are questionable to play on Friday. It sounds like Key is pretty likely to play, but Young is still up in the air as of this writing.
If both are able to suit up that is a huge boost for the Buckeyes because — like every Loyola Chicago team — the Ramblers are incredibly tough to beat.
The Ramblers finished the season seventh in the nation in effective field goal percentage and top-20 in both 2- and 3-point FG%. per KenPom. They space the floor well, they’re top-20 in shot selection (per ShotQuality) and they’re 13th in rim and 3-point rate, which are the two most valuable shots in the half-court offense.
With that being said, they’re going to have to hit a lot of their 3s to win this game because they’re not that efficient at the rim (105th in PPP at the rim, per ShotQuality), and Ohio State is outstanding at preventing you from getting to the rim.
The pace of this game is going to be incredibly slow and will be played in the half-court. Both Loyola Chicago and Ohio State are in the bottom 70 of college basketball in adjusted tempo and top-100 in frequency of their possessions played in the half-court.
Loyola Chicago has the 12th-longest average possession length on defense, and Ohio State is 317th in average possession length on offense. This game will be played at a slow tempo, and I love the under at 132.5.