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Two teams are finally back in the NCAA Tournament after a long time away. In 2018, the Loyola Chicago Ramblers shocked everyone by making it to the Final Four. This was one of the most unlikely runs in Tournament history. Since that magical run, this is the first time we’ve seen them. On the other hand, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are dancing for the first time since 2010. Since then, the only time they played in a postseason game was in the NIT Tournament in 2016 and 2017. Last year, they were banned from any postseason play because they had broken NCAA rules. However, it didn’t matter because the pandemic canceled all of the tournaments for the year.
Both teams are now back and want to prove something. This year, the Ramblers had to play in the very tough Missouri Valley Conference. They won their third conference title by going 16-2 in league play and winning 14 of their last 16 regular-season games. As the top seed in the MVC Tournament in St. Louis, Loyola beat Southern Illinois, Indiana State, and Drake all by more than 10 points to win another “Arch Madness” trophy. Loyola is ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 poll heading into the Big Dance.
The Yellow Jackets campaign has been one of the most interesting ones. After getting off to a 6-3 start, their last non-conference game against UAB was canceled, and their first three ACC games had to be moved because of the pandemic. When they got back on the court on January 20, they only won five of their next nine games. On February 17, their game against Boston College had to be postponed.
The Jackets got back to playing on February 20 and won their last five games of the regular season. That gave them the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament and two byes. Tech beat a Miami team in the quarterfinals that had upset Clemson the day before. The regular-season champion, Virginia, was supposed to play Georgia Tech in the semifinals, but the Cavaliers had to drop out because they failed a COVID-19 test. The Yellow Jackets beat a Florida State team in the championship game that had won the regular-season title last year.
Georgia Tech hopes to keep the momentum going in this game against Loyola after winning its first tournament since 1993. Whoever wins this game will play the winner of the game between No. 1 Illinois and No. 16 Drexel. Many people are already looking forward to a possible matchup between Illinois and Loyola.
How to get into Georgia Tech
The team that won the ACC Tournament will play Loyola Chicago without their best player. Moses Wright, who was named ACC Player of the Year, won’t be able to play on Friday for an unknown reason. He also won’t be able to play if Georgia Tech wins, according to reports.
But right now, the focus is on beating the Ramblers without Wright, who finished the regular season third in the ACC in scoring (17.4 ppg), fourth in rebounding (8.0 rpg), and sixth in blocked shots (1.64 bpg). The matchup between him and Cameron Krutwig, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, down low was going to be interesting to watch, but it looks like Loyola now has the upper hand. Reserve Rodney Howard, who is a little taller (6-10) than Wright (6-9), will be asked to play more minutes now.
The backcourt is led by guards Jose Alvarado (4.1 assists per game, 3.0 steals per game) and Michael Devoe (13.5 points per game, 3.3 assists per game). Both will have to play better on both ends of the court to make up for Wright’s absence.
For the Ramblers, everything begins and ends with Krutwig, who was already mentioned. The senior center won the Larry Bird Trophy (MVC Player of the Year award) and was named first-team All-MWC and third-team AP All-American for his work as a scorer (15.0 ppg), rebounder (6.7 rpg), and shot blocker (1.22 bpg). He also shoots very well for a big man (57.9% from the field) and has the most assists on this Rambler team (3.0 apg). Krutwig could be ready for a big game without Wright to fight with down low and, more importantly, defend against on the other end.
Krutwig doesn’t do everything by himself, of course. Forward Aher Uguak, who was named to the MVC’s All-Defensive team even though he’s a good shooter himself, helps him in the paint (62.9 percent). The last member of this group is guard Lucas Williamson. He was named the defensive MVP of the conference and is the second-leading scorer for the Ramblers (8.2 ppg). Defense is a big part of Loyola head coach Porter Moser’s game plan, so you can expect the team to start focusing on it right away.
This is only the second time that the two schools have ever met. The first time these two teams played each other was in 1967, and Loyola won. The Ramblers are just 7-32 against the ACC, but they have won against teams like Miami, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Duke, as well as Georgia Tech. In their last two games against ACC teams, they went 1-1, with a win against Miami in 2018 and a loss to Notre Dame in 2015.
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