2018 Loyola Ramblers Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
What a story Loyola was last year. Sister Jean stole our hearts as Loyola beat Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State to advance all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. They eventually lost to Michigan, but not before proving that they were no joke. Porter Moser is a strong coach, and his team is no fun to play against. And they return three starters and could be even better this year than they were in the regular season last year. AP poll voters obviously aren't true romantics, because they left Loyola just outside the top 25 - they had the 26th most votes.
If I was in charge they would be ranked to start the year for sure. They earned it after their run last year. Of course, with success comes increased expectations, and this lovable group isn't going to sneak up on anyone this season. So, what do they have up their sleeves as an encore?
Loyola Ramblers Additions/Losses
The team lost a few key pieces to graduation. Donte Ingram, a wing who got attention when he hit the game-winner against Miami in the tournament, and kept playing well throughout, went undrafted, was signed briefly by the Mavericks, and is now looking for work. He was the third-leading scorer last year, though the top-five scorers were clustered very close together in this democratic offense. Also gone is forward Aundre Jackson, who tied Ingram with 11 points per game while playing 40 percent fewer minutes. Here's something you don't see every day - he is playing professionally in Iceland. Also gone is guard Ben Richardson, who was sixth in points and third in minutes, and had a career game against Kansas State in the Elite Eight. He is playing in Poland now. Four others left, but none were key members of the rotation. In Ingram, Jackson and Richardson, they have lost three of their seven main contributors and about 40 percent of their scoring.
Forward Aher Uguak transferred in from New Mexico last year and is eligible now after sitting out last season. He's a stretch four and reportedly the best athlete on the team. He will likely start. He's from just a couple hours north of where I live - notable only because of how far from the heart of basketball country I am.
The team added three recruits. Franklin Agunanne, a smaller center, is the highest ranked, earning four stars from one of the four major services. Two three-stars - shooting guard Cooper Kaifes and point guard Isaiah Bujdoso - also join the team. Agunanne is the most likely to play early, and Kaifes and Bujdoso will have opportunities to show they can contribute as well.
Loyola Ramblers Outlook
Clayton Custer was the Missouri Valley conference player of the year last year after leading the team in scoring, assists, steals and three-point percentage, and the redshirt senior point guard is the key to the team's success this year. Marques Townes, another redshirt senior, started every game beside Custer while being second in scoring. The combination of production and experience make them an excellent duo. Lucas Williamson, another guard - the Ramblers typically play four perimeter types at a time - played 20 minutes a game as a freshman last year. And while he wasn't hugely productive, he should do more this year as he sees more time and responsibility. And the final member of the starting group, alongside these three and Uguak, is sophomore Cameron Krutwig, a post player who was a pleasant surprise last year. All and all, it's a solid and pretty versatile unit. Christian Negron, another sophomore from what was a strong class last year, is the likely sixth man and another option up front in place of, or at times beside, Krutwig. And Bruno Skokna, a shooter who played in every game but averaged only 11 minutes, should see his productivity increase due to the added time. It's a different group than last year because of the losses, but if the new starting group can gel it will be every bit as dangerous a team - or more so.
Loyola Ramblers Schedule
It's not the toughest nonconference schedule in the world, but it has it's points. Their preseason tournament is the Fort Myers Tip-off - because there is apparently no end to the number of tournaments these days - where they will face Richmond and either Boston College or Wyoming. That will be a good test of where the team is at - all of those opponents should be beatable. Next, in the MW-MVC Challenge, they host a game that could really be a classic. Nevada is a highly-ranked team with massive expectations, and they will be seeking revenge for the early exit at the hands of Loyola in the tournament. Both have excellent point guards and strong guards, so it will be fun. Later, they play Maryland, and then Saint Joseph's in a battle of former tournament Cinderellas.
The MVC schedule is very manageable. They went 15-3 in conference last year, and it's not like the group is particularly different this year. It would qualify as an upset if the Ramblers don't win both the regular-season title and the conference tournament.
Loyola Ramblers Futures Odds
The Ramblers are one of four teams that are the longest shot on the board to win the national title at Bovada at +20000. That puts them behind 47 teams listed with better odds. They don't need to feel too bad, though - one of the teams they are tied with is Washington, which is ranked 25th.
Loyola Ramblers Predictions
The team knows that this is the last year of this particular window, with Custer and Townes on the way out. That should motivate them, and they have a schedule that can get them noticed as well. I expect a return to the tournament, and once they get there anything can happen.
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