I did a fairly in depth diary previewing Texas A&M last week. Now that we're in the Final Four I wanted to do something similar for Loyola-Chicago. The preview I did for TAMU looked at their statistical profiles on KenPom and Torvik and also included some player previews and key takeaways. In all honesty, that's all covered pretty well and good by Brian/Ace/Seth/Alex/Dylan (UMHoops). Instead for Loyola, I wanted to look at their team at a high level, see what stands out about them and finally see how Michigan might be able to exploit Loyola differently than the teams who have already played them this tournament.
- 32-5, 15-3 in the MVC, regular season and tournament champs
- 33rd on Torvik, 57th AdjO, 25th AdjD
- 30th on KenPom, 60th AdjO, 18th AdjD
- 1-1 in Q1 games before the torunament (W @ Florida, L @ Boise)
Team Profile - What Stands Out?
- Loyola's defense is its better side of the ball by a significant margin on both KenPom and Torvik. They do this mainly by being good at everything. They're top 60 nationally in the major defensive categories on Torvik except TO rate where they are 102nd, so still above average. The two things they are great at is not fouling (15th lowest FT rate in the nation) and 3 point D (26th best 3 point defense by percentage).
- As has been mentioned before, it's argued that the ability to prevent 3P shots from going up is the best indicator of a teams 3P defense. In that regard Loyola is pretty average at a 36.6% rate which puts them at 140th nationally. Hopefully this means their great 3P D is a little misleading and opportunities will be had.
- On Offense, Loyola is a team of extremes. Their eFG% is 5th nationally but they are dragged down by their inability to rebound offensively, get to the line and their very high TO rate.
- Loyola's eFG% is so high because they are 10th nationally in both 2P and 3P shooting percentages. That being said, they only shoot 3's 35.8% of the time, which is good for the 214th highest rate in the nation.
- Loyola plays with an AdjT of 65.2 possessions a game which is the 315th slowest tempo in the country. This matches Michigan who is at 64.5 and 326th nationally.
- According to KenPom they are the luckiest team left in the tournament at 20th nationally (Kansas is 21, Michigan is 65, Nova is 223). Luck here refers to the difference between a team's statistical profile and record, so Loyola is significantly out performing their statistical profile.
- Loyola this tournament has been playing 7 guys regularly in the rotation. They might throw out an 8th and a 9th guy for about 5 minutes a game each, but their starters plus two bench guys take up the majority of the minutes.
- Loyola only has one guy on their team taller than 6'6, RS Fr Cameron Krutwig who is 6'9. They have one 6'6 F and one 6'5 F and besides that everyone else is pretty much 6'3 or 6'4.
How Does Michigan Differ From Loyola's Past Opponents
So right off the bat the obvious answer is Michigan's better. The best team Loyola has played has been Tennessee, 12th/13th on Torvik/KenPom compared to Michigan who is 7th on both. But ignoring that and going into specifics, what is different about Michigan from the teams Loyola has already played and how can Michigan use this to beat Loyola?
- Size: As I mentioned above, Loyola is a pretty small team. Only one guy taller than 6'6 (6'9 Cameron Krutwig) and two more guys taller than 6'4. Surprisingly, every other team Loyola has played has been in the same mold.
- Kansas State: Their best player 6'10 Dean Wade was out, so KSU had 6'9 Maikol Maiwen play 19 minutes and 6'8 Levi Stockard play 7. Everyone else was 6-5 or shorter.
- Nevada: 6'8 Elijah Foster played 3 minutes, everyone else was 6'7 or shorter.
- Tennessee: Starting C 6'11 Kyle Alexander missed the game, so they got 7 minutes from 6'9 Jordan Fulkerson and 18 minutes from 6'8 Derrick Walker. They had one other 6'7 player and everyone else was 6'5 or shorter.
- Miami: Only team to break this mold with a 6'9, 6'10 and 6'11 guy.
- So Loyola, except for the one game against Miami (who is 37th on KenPom so significantly worse than us) to start the tournament, has not faced any real size. What they have faced has been small teams like their own or backup bigs as KSU and Tennessee were down their starting 5's. Between Teske/Moe at the 5 and Livers/Robinson at the 4, Michigan should have a big height advantage.
- Perimeter Shooting From Bigs: This is related to the previous bullet but as said the only team with real size Loyola has faced is Miami. The rest of the teams were injured and small or just small. What size Loyola has faced, however, have been traditional bigs. They have yet to face a player like Moe who can stretch the floor from the 5. If you've seen Loyola play, the one big guy they have is very much a low post big. He's 6'9 260, his arms look like they're all fat, and this is after losing 30 pounds last year during his RS year. Having him play on the perimeter and run around following Moe is not what he's comfortable doing. This should be a big advantage for Michigan scoring on the perimeter but also to remove Loyola's minimal size from the paint and/or game and increase our own size advantage.
- 3 Point Gap: The idea of Michigan trying to create a 3 point gap has been discussed a lot on this site. So far this tournament, Loyola has hit 30 3's on 42% shooting so far while their opponents have hit 3 26 3's on 29% shooting. As I said Loyola is not a team that tries to create a 3 point gap, and the same goes for all of their previous opponents. Loyola's previous opponents have been able to get 3 point shots up, they just haven't been hitting them (granted this is probably partially due to Loyola's D and the quality of those looks). As I described with the bigs above, Michigan should be more well equipped to get open 3's. If Michigan can hit these looks and put an emphasis on shutting down Loyola's 3 point attemps, which no other previous opponent has done, Michigan can win this 3 point gap again.
- Turnovers/Transition Points: One of Loyola's biggest weaknesses offensively is their propensity to turn the ball over. Every single player has a TO% of at least 14.5 and they are 214th nationally with a 18.9% TO rate. So far this tournament they have turned the ball over 51 times (12.75) to their opponents 39 (9.75 a game). The players with the two highest assist rates for Loyola have TO rates of 19% and 22%. To me this seems like a matchup where Z can force a lot of turnovers on their primary ball handlers and we can force a lot of live ball turnovers. This should lead to a lot of transition point opportunities for us. Loyola plays at a very slow tempo (comparable to ours), doesn't force turnovers, and we don't turn the ball over. This seems like a game where we should win the TO battle by more than the 3 TOs a game difference Loyola is currently at and thus have a substantial edge in transition points.
- Health: I mentioned this breifly above, but Loyola has had some good luck with regards to their opponents' health. Miami was healthy when they played but Tennessee was down their starting C, Nevada has been missing their starting PG since early February, and KSU was missing their starting C and best player. The fact that we are healthy is a big advantage for us compared to their previous 4 opponents.