Loyola Chicago has developed into a mid-major power under head coach Porter Moser.
The Ramblers won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season in three out of last four years and famously made a Sister Jean-aided run to the Final Four in 2018. Despite the success and increased prominence, the Ramblers can't seem to secure a date with Big Ten neighbor Illinois, which resides about a two-hour drive south in Champaign.
That is, until Sunday.
Stiff second-round test awaits Illinois
Loyola beat Georgia Tech, 71-60, in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, setting up a juicy second-round matchup with No. 1 seed Illinois. It will mark the first time the programs have played since a regular-season matchup that Illinois won in 2011 — Moser's first game as Loyola's head coach.
Moser hasn't had the opportunity to exact his revenge since. Now his Ramblers will look to spoil the hopes of a No. 1 seed on the short list of national title favorites with their own eyes set on another Cinderella run to the Final Four.
Loyola's a defensive power
To do so, they'll lean on their elite defense that gave up an NCAA-low 55.5 points per game and ranked fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. The traditional and advanced stats support the Loyola's case as a defensive powerhouse.
They'll enter Sunday's game riding a seven-game winning streak and boasting a 25-4 record. If they're going to pull off the upset, they'll need a big game from center Cameron Krutwig, who leads the team with 15 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
It won't be easy or expected, of course. Illinois is led by projected NBA first-round point guard Ayo Dosunmu and entered the tournament on a tear, winning 14 out of 15 games in the nation's toughest conference en route to the Big Ten tournament title.
Illinois probably deserves an easier second-round matchup. But it's stuck with Loyola instead. And that's a win for every neutral viewer planning to tune in on Sunday.
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