College Basketball Game of the Week: Drake vs. Loyola Chicago
There is a lot of excitement around the Missouri Valley Conference, and rightfully so.
This weekend, there is a two-game series between the top-two teams in the conference as the previously undefeated Drake Bulldogs welcome the No. 22 Loyola Chicago Ramblers to The Knapp Center.
The last time there was a game this big in this conference was back in the 2014-15 season when Wichita State faced Northern Iowa for the league title. Both teams would make the tournament that year.
Drake (19-1) sits at second in the Missouri Valley Conference and finds itself in an interesting position. The Bulldogs have one of the best records in basketball, but they don’t have any quality wins and their recent loss to Valparaiso doesn’t help.
At the time of Drake’s 74-57 loss to Valparaiso, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 25. They did bounce back on Wednesday with a convincing win over Northern Iowa, 80-59. Tremell Murphy led the team in scoring with 18 points.
The strongest part of Darian DeVries’s squad is that it’s one the best scoring teams in the nation, averaging 81.3 points per game. Drake is also strong defensively, holding their opponents to 63 points per game.
The Bulldogs are led by ShanQuan Hemphill, who averages 14.1 points per game. However, they might be without Hemphill this weekend as he left their last contest with an injury.
Senior guard Roman Penn will try to fill the void left by Hemphill. Penn is averaging 12.7 points per game and leads the conference in assists per game with 5.5.
No. 22 Loyola Chicago (17-3) has itself in a better position to make the tournament and is ranked for the first time since 1985. While they have more losses than Drake, two of those losses came against NCAA tournament-quality teams in Richmond and Wisconsin.
The Ramblers come into this game on a 10-game win streak and are currently the best defensive team in college basketball. They’re holding opponents to only 56.2 points per game. The defensive unit is led by Lucas Williamson, who leads the team in steals per game with 1.4.
During their win streak, the Ramblers have beaten teams by double digits in nine of those 10 games. The reason for that being their stellar defense and dominating play of senior center Cameron Krutwig, who has this offense averaging 74 points per game.
Krutwig was a starter for the Ramblers’ Final Four team back in 2018 and has been phenomenal so far this year. He leads Loyola Chicago in both points per game with 15.1 and rebounds per game posting 6.1.
One of the matchups to watch in this game is Darnell Brodie versus Krutwig in the paint. Brodie will have a tough matchup as he attempts to guard one of the best big men in college basketball in Krutwig.
Another one to watch is whichever Rambler is tasked with guarding Drake’s Penn in the backcourt. Expect to see Loyola’s Williamson on him, as he is a lockdown defender.
Loyola Chicago and Drake are two of the best mid-major teams in college basketball and should produce an instant classic this weekend in each contest.
Both teams are trying to put themselves in a spot to make the NCAA tournament, so a split seems likely.
Prediction: 1-1 Split
Game 1: Loyola Chicago 70, Drake 65
Game 2: Drake 68, Loyola Chicago 66
Matt Scalzo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.