Five things to know about Loyola, Ohio State’s first NCAA Tournament opponent

Ohio State faces a date with Sister Jean in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

As the No. 7 seed in the South Region, the Buckeyes are set to face No. 10 seed Loyola Chicago in the first round of the tournament, presenting what looks to be a tough game for the Buckeyes on Friday in Pittsburgh.

The Ramblers enter the NCAA Tournament with momentum on their side, having won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to take a 25-7 record on Sunday. They’ve also been successful in their recent March Madness appearances, reaching the Sweet 16 last year and the Final Four in 2018.

Loyola is perhaps best known for Sister Jean, the 102-year-old Ramblers team chaplain who rose to fame for her appearances at their games during their 2018 Final Four. team and plans to be with the team at its NCAA tournament games this year, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan.

On the field, the Ramblers are a complete team that is capable of testing the Buckeyes on both sides of the court, although they aren’t tested as well against top competition as Ohio State.

A top 20 defensive team

While Ohio State and Loyola have both averaged exactly the same number of points this season — 73.8 per game — the Ramblers have been much better on defense, limiting their opponents to just 61.7 points per game. Loyola ranks 18th in the nation in points allowed per game and 13th in the nation in points-per-game differential and is ranked by KenPom as the No. 22 defensive team in the nation.

Ohio State’s defense, meanwhile, is ranked 160th in the nation with 68.5 points allowed per game and is ranked by KenPom as the No. 131 defensive team in the nation. The Buckeyes rank 103rd nationally in points-per-game differential.

The Ramblers aren’t a great rebounding team — they rank just 248th in rebounds per game (33.9) — but they held their opponents to a 40.9% field goal percentage, ranking 47th at the national level in this category.

Overall, Loyola is ranked by KenPom as the No. 24 team in the nation while Ohio State is ranked as the 32nd team in the nation, even though Ohio State is a top seed. higher streak in the tournament. That said, the Ramblers have only had one win this year against a team currently competing in the NCAA Tournament (San Francisco).

It’s a small team

Like most mid-size teams, you won’t find a ton of size on Loyola’s roster. The Ramblers have just two players over 6-foot-7 — center Jacob Hutson (6-10) and forward Tom Welch (6-8) — and they’ve combined to play just 21.2 minutes per game .

Of the six Loyola players who have played more than 20 minutes per game, the tallest among them are 6-foot-7 forwards Aher Uguak and Ryan Schwieger. Unlike last year, when Loyola was led by 6-foot-9, 255-pound center Cameron Krutwig, this year’s Ramblers are led by their guard game, with 6-foot-4 guard Lucas Williamson leading the way. team in scoring (14 points per game), rebounds (five per game) and steals (1.3 per game).

Not having to face a real center in the first round could be a good thing for the Buckeyes, but given their difficulty defending against guards in recent games, this game could be just as dangerous as playing against a big. man. .

The Hilliard native plays a key role

Another of Loyola’s top guards grew up in Ohio State’s backyard. Starting point guard Braden Norris is from Hilliard, Ohio, who played at Hilliard Bradley High School, where his father is the head coach.

Norris leads Loyola with 3.9 assists per game and ranks second on the team (behind Lucas Williamson, who averages 14 points per game) with 10.3 points per game. He’s played the most minutes of any Rambler this season (32.6 per game) and is the team’s most efficient 3-point shooter, shooting from beyond the arc at 43.5 percent .

Norris played a key role in Loyola’s first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Georgia Tech last year, scoring 16 points and providing assists in the Ramblers’ 71-60 victory over the Yellow Jackets, and he will now try to lead them to another first-round victory against his hometown Buckeyes.

Braden Norris

Hilliard native Braden Norris leads Loyola in minutes played and assists per game and is the Ramblers’ second-highest scorer.

When they’re in, they usually win

In each of their last three NCAA Tournament appearances — in 2021, 2018 and 1985 — Loyola has won at least two games.

As the No. 8 seed last year, Loyola upset No. 1 seed Illinois in the second round of the tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 before losing to Oregon State.

In 2018, Loyola was the Cinderella of the tournament, becoming only the fourth No. 11 seed in tournament history to advance to the Final Four. The Ramblers won their first three games against Miami, Tennessee and Nevada by a combined four points before beating Kansas State by 16 points in the Elite Eight to earn their ticket to the Final Four, where their tournament run NCAA ultimately ended in a 69-57. loss to Michigan.

The Ramblers had a long NCAA Tournament drought before that, but also reached the Sweet 16 in 1985, when they beat Iona and SMU in the first two rounds as the No. 4 seed before losing to the No. 1 seed Georgetown, who was upset by Villanova in the national championship game.

Loyola won the NCAA Tournament in 1963.

Youngest Division I manager

While the Ramblers have made noise in each of their two recent NCAA tournament appearances, both have come under leadership from Porter Moser, who is now Oklahoma’s head coach (who hasn’t not participated in the NCAA Tournament in his first season with the Sooners).

Loyola’s new coach, Drew Valentine, is the youngest coach in all of Division I basketball at just 30 years old. He participated in the 2018 and 2021 NCAA tournaments as an assistant coach, while also serving as a graduate manager for Michigan State when the Spartans made the Elite Eight in 2014 and the Final Four in 2015.

Valentine is the older brother of former Michigan State star Denzel Valentine, the 2016 National Player of the Year.