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Missouri Valley verse MAC here as the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers travel to take on the Ball State Cardinals. The Ramblers are just a couple of years removed from a Final Four run, but they enter this one at 4-4. Ball State enters this one at 4-3, and oddsmakers have them has a slight favorite for this one, which will be streamed by ESPN+.
Loyola Chicago LimpingOh, how the mighty have fallen. Just a couple of years ago Loyola-Chicago was the best story in college basketball, as they made an improbable Final Four run in the NCAA tournament. Sister Jean and the Ramblers captivated the nation, but unfortunately, most of the guys from that year's team graduated and they are no longer nearly as talented. Last year they were solid but not spectacular, going 20-13 in the regular season and making the NIT where they lost in the first round. Unfortunately for them, it looks like they could take another step backward this year, as they again lost a bunch of guys. They lost two of their top three scorers from a season ago, including top option Marques Townes.
They did add solid junior college transfer Tate Hall, but other than him and center Cameron Krutwig, the offense hasn't looked very good at all. They're struggling to connect from three-point range, making only 29.7 percent of their shots from deep as a team. They've been a bit sloppy with the ball, and are turning it over 15.1 times per game through their first eight contests. The Ramblers have also struggled on the road recently, going just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games away from home. They've been up and down all season long, and enter this one at just 4-4 with some very disappointing efforts. In their only road game of the season, they got embarrassed by Furman, losing by 24 points.
Ball State ExperiencedBall State has declined the past couple of years, so they could desperately use a winning season here as James Whitford enters his seventh season at the helm. He took over a program in disarray and had a couple of really solid years, but needs to get back to his winning ways. For a few reasons, I'm fairly high on this Ball State team in 2019. They returned a lot of guys from last year, and are now dripping with experience. Three of their top four scorers are seniors, and the other one is a junior. Senior forward Tahjai Teague is looking like one of the best players in the MAC this season, averaging 15 points to go along with 8.6 rebounds per game.
They take care of the ball like you would expect a veteran team to do, only averaging 10.7 turnovers per game. They have a middling 4-3 record, but the losses aren't that bad. All three of their losses have been by seven points or less, and one of them was a close road loss against Evansville, a team that already beat Kentucky this season. They also have a lot more length than you might expect from a MAC team, which allows them to play very good defense. So far they're ranked in the top 100 in overall defensive efficiency by advanced analytics site Kenpom.com. Kenpom has them rated 352nd out of 353 D1 teams in luck this season, showing that they've gotten very unlucky so far.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Ramblers are:
- 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games
- 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following an ATS win
- 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I think Ball State is the clear side here. The public fondly remembers Loyola-Chicago because of their improbable NCAA tournament run, but they aren't a good team anymore. They've lost virtually all their talent, and have really struggled on the road recently. This Ball State team is pretty underrated and they are dripping with experience, so I expect them to dominate. The advanced analytics indicate the Cardinals have been one of the unluckiest teams in all of college basketball, and we should see some positive regression soon.
Prediction: Ball State -2
Full-Game Total Pick
The under also makes a lot of sense here. Ball State's defense is their strength, and the Cardinals also play at a very slow pace which will limit the number of possessions here. Neither team is going to shoot too well from three, so we don't have to worry about the score increasing too quickly. Loyola-Chicago's offense gets a lot worse when they hit the highway, and the under is 8-2 in their last ten road games. Ball State has a top-100 defense nationally, and they are very methodical.