Oregon State is still in the NCAA Tournament - yes, you read that right - and this Saturday, they’ll meet with the Loyola Chicago in the Sweet Sixteen. Here’s what we know about the Ramblers heading into the Beavers showdown with them.
How The Ramblers Got Here
Loyola knocked off Drake, a 2021 NCAA Tournament 11 seed, in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference post-season tournament to first secure their automatic spot in the field of 68. The MVC always produces great basketball, but this season was elite with the Ramblers and Bulldogs turning it into a two-bid league in the process and head coach Porter Moser’s squad entered the tourney at 24-4, with two of their defeats coming to NCAA Tournament teams (Wisconsin & Drake).
As an 8 seed, Loyola Chicago drew a red-hot #9 seed Georgia Tech team, who were just days removed from edging Florida State in the ACC Tournament Championship. However, the Yellow Jackets would play the game without ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright available and a strong display from guard Lucas Williamson (21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) helped the Ramblers to set up a show down with #1 seed in the Midwest region, Illinois.
Here’s where the Ramblers get dangerous. After Williamson playing star in the Round of 64, the role returned to big man Cameron Krutwig, who stole the show for not the first time in his life. Loyola Chicago is simply just so good at imposing their style on opponents, like they did to a severely more talented team in the Illini and keeping the game in their tempo range, so when the unique spells of the game do rear their heads, it’s often in favor of the team behind the wheel.
By upsetting Illinois, Loyola Chicago made their second appearance in the Sweet Sixteen in the last three NCAA Tournaments.
2021 NCAA Tournament
Round of 64: #8 Loyola Chicago 71, #9 Georgia Tech 60
Round of 32: #8 Loyola Chicago 71, #1 Illinois 58
Loyola Chicago Starting Five
- Cameron Krutwig (15.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG) 6’ 9”, 255 lbs
- Lucas Williamson (8.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG) 6’ 4”, 205 lbs
- Braden Norris (8.4 PPG, 3.1 APG) 6’ 0”, 180 lbs
- Keith Clemons (7.5 PPG, 1.5 APG) 6’ 1”, 180 lbs
- Aher Uguak (7.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG) 6’ 7”, 225 lbs
What To Know: Krutwig is one of the holdovers who played a pivotal role in Loyola’s 2018 “Final Four” run and the savvy big man in the middle plays the “chameleon” role for the Ramblers just as well as anyone in the country does. When not called upon to carry the load, he can defer like he did in the opening Round of 64 clash against Georgia Tech, where he settled for an efficient 10 points on just six shots and grabbed 5 rebounds.
Yet, in their Round of 32 game versus Illinois, where he was supposed to dominated by the powerful and relentless frontline of Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili, the 6’ 9” center was able to tally 19 points on a 50% day from the field, grab 12 rebounds, dish out 5 assists and snatch 4 steals. Not bad for a bulky center who doesn’t look like much running out of the locker room. Krutwig is a classic case of don’t judge a book by its cover and despite not being the point guard, he runs as the focal point of Loyola Chicago’s offense.
It’s no surprise that Loyola, a team known for its nationally ranked defense, also boasts a talent like Williamson, who took home the Missouri Valley Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. While Williamson is a vicious on-ball defender, all-league third-teamer Aher Uguak is a versatile weapon who can mix it up at both ends of the floor in moments. In all though, this team is more about the sum of its parts than its individual pieces.
What Decides The Game?
Loyola Chicago is the country’s best defensive teams, no ifs, ands or buts about it, and against every opponent and every different style, they’ve shown they can adapt and overcome.
Offensively, Porter Moser’s team also found ways to break down a zone defense from Georgia Tech and they posted 71 points against a Big Ten-sized roster from Illinois, a primarily man-to-man defense squad. So how the heck do you actually do something to beat this Ramblers group?
That’s not an easy question to answer in general. Of their four defeats on the year, three have come by single-digits and the one that didn’t was a slip-up against Wisconsin, in which Loyola Chicago had 14 turnovers and shot just 38.9% as a team from the field. That’s a bad day at the office that wasn’t getting better. Here’s to hoping that’s the team the Beavers see on Saturday.
But if they don’t the likely best chance at knocking off Loyola Chicago comes from making some of their lesser players carry scoring loads for extended periods, as even despite their balance offensively, it’s been mostly Krutwig as the go-to piece when it all boils down to it. If the Beavers can send extra defenders his way or get him off his game, their chances to win severely increase.
Sure, the Ramblers can score from all different spots on the floor, but in the bright lights of the Sweet Sixteen, passing the buck to guys who haven’t been there before, much like Oregon State did in their victory over Oklahoma State, could be the Beavers best option.
- Date: Saturday, March 27th
- Time: 11:40 AM PT
- Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Indiana)
- Coverage: CBS