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Loyola of Chicago Ramblers vs. Wichita State Shockers - 2/19/14

Wichita State Shockers (27-0) at Loyola of Chicago Ramblers (9-17)

College Basketball: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm (Joseph J. Gentile Center)

The Line: Loyola of Chicago Ramblers +14 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: None

The Wichita State Shockers are just 4 games from an undefeated regular season as they travel to Chicago to play Loyola, Chi. on Wednesday night at the Gentile Center.

Wichita State is #3 in both polls as they enter the week. The Shockers scored an easy 16-point win at Evansville on Sunday as they continued to shoot better than their average at 49% and hit 20 of 21 free throws. You hardly ever see the final stats with them being outrebounded – especially to a team like Evansville who lacks big men and don’t usually outrebound their opponents. Sophomore Fred VanVleet chalked up another 8 assists to bring it up to 141 assists for the season to just 38 turnovers! He is also a reliable scorer with 11.9 ppg. Sophomore mate Ron Baker notched a season-high 26 points in the win over the Aces and is having a solid season with 13.4 ppg and a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. These 2 sophomores have not let up since last year’s NCAA tournament in which they had key roles in the Shockers run to the Final 4. Senior Cleanthony Early is the team’s leading scorer at 16.2 ppg and 6.3 boards per game, but this team is far from a 1-man-show. There are 7 Shockers who average better than 5 points per game and everyone on the floor gets their share of rebounds to give them an edge in rebounding in most games, outrebounding their opponents by almost 8 per game. They are a good free throw shooting team at 73.6% and have 3 guys whose percentage is 85% or better from the stripe.

Loyola of Chicago Ramblers vs. Wichita State Shockers - 2/19/14

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Loyola Ramblers have been struggling of late, but they return home where they have been a completely different team at 8-4. Their last home game resulted in a 10-point win over Illinois State and they have beaten Missouri State and Northern Iowa there too – all those teams are in the top half of the league standings. I think they should be able to put behind their last 2 defeats on the road (at Northern Iowa and Drake) to give everything they have in front of the home crowd. The Shockers will try to put the clamps on freshman Milton Doyle, who leads the Ramblers with 16.4 ppg, followed by Christian Thomas (13.5 ppg), and Devon Turk (10.1 ppg). Their rebounding margin vs. opponents is -1.6, which is what I look for when a team faces Wichita State – arguably the best rebounding team at the mid-major level. But I looked deeper into Loyola’s home games and found that they do a better job rebounding at home, where they outrebounded their last 2 opponents by an average of 14 boards, and have outrebounded the visiting team in 4 of their last 5. I think they can at least keep the Shockers off the boards and not get beaten in that component of the game.

I have taken this angle before with both teams as Loyola is normally a better 1st-half team, while Wichita St. doesn’t usually turn it on until after the break. With the spread at -14, I think Loyola stays within 7 by halftime. I can actually see a tighter game than it appears on paper. I would normally see this as a let-down game for Wichita State as they’ve all but wrapped up the MVC title, but Shockers head coach Greg Marshall will have the boys focused and ready as they eye perfection, and they have not shown any signs of being out of focus all season.

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