Loyola-Chicago vs. Tennessee -5 O/U 130
Betting markets focus on statistical profiles. The Ramblers have an impressive statistical profile. They rank in the Top 20 nationally in effective field goal percentage from both two point range and three point range. And Loyola ranks in the Top 25 nationally in defensive efficiency; putting up impressive numbers on both ends of the court. Throw in a 29-5 SU record following their opening round win against Miami and you can understand why this pointspread is as short as it is.
What happens when the betting markets don’t have much of a sample size for mid-majors as they step up in class? Simple – any win they notched against a quality foe gets factored into the equation like it was a HUGE deal. Loyola played one true ‘step-up-in-class’ game all year prior to the win over Miami. The Ramblers won that game SU, at Florida, a win that looks great on their resume and ‘Proves’ they can hang with quality foes.
Of course, bettors are loathe to go back and do some research to figure out HOW Loyola won those two games. The answer there is simple too – Florida was as flat as a pancake, coming off HUGE games against Duke and Florida State, the Seminoles game coming just 48 hours earlier. And Miami on Thursday was primed to win and cover, but they missed the front end of a one-and-one, leaving the door open for the Loyola game winner as the clock expired. Sure, Loyola notched those impressive wins away from home, but they’re not wins that convince me the Ramblers can do it again in another ‘step-up’ game in March.
It’s surely worth noting that INCLUDING the win at Florida, Loyola’s non-conference strength of schedule ranked #315 in the country. It’s also worth noting that the Missouri Valley Conference was WAY down this year, especially compared to what it was when Wichita State and Creighton stood at the top of the league.
Tennessee has been an undervalued commodity from Day 1 this year. Blue Ribbon had them ranked #13 out of 14 SEC teams coming into the campaign, and yet all they’ve done is overachieve in what might be Rick Barnes best coaching job ever. This team plays nasty defense; they’ve got size and athleticism edges all over the floor and they’re primed to ride into the Sweet 16 with a solid win by margin!