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NCAA Tournament 2021 – #8 Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs #1 Illinois Fighting Illini

You can’t tell me the NCAA Selection Committee didn’t eye this potential round of 32 matchups when the pairings were selected. The Ramblers took down 9-seeded Georgia Tech, 71-60, while the Illini blew out Drexel, 78-49. These two teams get the Sunday slate started with a 12:10 p.m. EST tipoff inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. Illinois is a 7-point favorite over the Ramblers in the Midwest Region second-round matchup.

What to Know – Loyola Chicago Ramblers

The last time we saw the Ramblers in the NCAA Tournament, they put together a Cinderella run that got them to the Final Four. Loyola is back in the tournament and looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in program history. The Ramblers won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to get the league’s automatic bid.

Loyola averages 71.5 points per game on 50.4% shooting from the field and 37.0% shooting from deep. The Ramblers hold opponents to 55.7 points per game, which is the best in the country. Opponents shoot 41.2% from the floor and 32.5% from the three.

Senior guard Lucas Williamson poured in a game-high 21 points to lead the Ramblers over Georgia Tech. Sophomore guard Braden Norris added 16 points. Loyola shot 47.2% from the field and 40.7% from three. The Ramblers outrebounded the Yellow Jackets, 30-17.

Loyola are 17-9-1 against the spread this year, with a 4-1 mark over their last five outings. The Ramblers are 1-4 ATS as underdogs in recent games but 4-1 ATS in neutral site contests.

What to Know – Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois has a chance to get back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 when the Fighting Illini lost to UNC in the National Championship. A favorite to win the tournament, the Illini are playing their best ball of the season, losing only once in their last 15 contests. One of the tournament’s #1 seeds, the Illini, helped themselves out by winning the Big Ten Conference Tournament.

Illinois scores 81.3 points per game while shooting 50.1% from the floor and 37.5% from three. Defensively, the Fighting Illini surrenders 68.6 points per game and holds teams to 40.8% shooting from the field and 32.8% from beyond the arc.

Illinois had no issues dismantling the 16-seeded Drexel Dragons on Friday, building an 18-point halftime lead and never looking back. Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn scored 18 points, and junior guard Ayo Dosunmu netted 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Illinois shot 57.1% from the field, with most of their points coming inside the paint. The Illini only attempted seven 3-point field goal attempts.

The Fighting Illini are 20-10 ATS this year, including a 7-1 record in their last eight games. Illinois is 8-4 ATS in neutral site matchups, but 0-6 ATS in games played on Sundays this season.

The Pick is In

Both of these teams shoot the ball well from the field, so expect smart shots and solid ball movement. The Ramblers’ defense will have to play its best game of the year and have a plan to limit Cockburn in the post. Illinois needs to continue doing what they’ve been doing over the last two months, and they will get to stay in Indianapolis for another week. Loyola will hang for a bit, but the play of Cockburn and Dosunmu will be too much for the Ramblers.

The Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini -7

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