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No. 8 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech preview, picks for first round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The Loyola Chicago Ramblers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 07 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament - Drake v Loyola

Update March 19: Here are the updated bet splits for No. 8 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech as of March 19th at 7 a.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Loyola-Chicago: -5.5: 51% of action, 43% of bets
Georgia Tech: +5.5: 49% of action, 57% of bets

Over 124: 61% of action, 84% of bets
Under 124: 39% of action, 16% of bets

Update March 18: Here are the updated bet splits for Loyola-Chicago vs. Georgia Tech as of March 18th at 1:30 p.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Loyola-Chicago: -5.5: 54% of handle, 44% of bets
Georgia Tech: +5.5: 46% of handle, 56% of bets
Over: 125: 64% of handle, 88% of bets
Under: 125: 36% of handle, 12% of bets

Update March 17: ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright is OUT due to COVID-19.

One of the more interesting matchups of the 2021 NCAA Tournament pits the Missouri Valley champion Loyola-Chicago Ramblers against the ACC champs in the Georgia Tech Yellow jackets at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday, March 19th at 4:00 p.m. ET. The broadcast will be on TBS, and right now Loyola is a slight favorite.

No. 8 Loyola-Chicago: 24-4, (16-2 Missouri Valley): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 9 Overall, 41 Offense, 1 Defense
NET ranking: 10, (2-2 Vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Cameron Krutwig, 15 ppg
Key stat: Opponents only rebound 21% of their misses against Loyola, third-lowest in Division I

The defense of Loyola is one of the underwritten stories of March. They hold opponents to a measly 87.3 points per 100 possessions, good for third in all of college basketball, and the MVC was a very solid league this year with teams like Drake and Missouri State in the mix.

The Ramblers don’t roam a lot, as they’re 342nd in possessions per game, but Krutwig can really fill it up close to the rim. As a team they make 58% of their two-point shots, and with Lucas Williamson’s ability to drive to the rim, the matchup with him and Tech’s Jose Alvarado should be a great one.

No. 9 Georgia Tech: 17-8 (11-6 ACC): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 32 Overall, 27 Offense, 52 Defense
NET ranking: 34 (3-6 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Moses Wright 17.4 ppg
Key stat: The Bees get a steal on 13.2% of defensive possessions, the second-best rate in the country.

Whether it’s luck or skill is up for a bit of debate, but the Ramblin’ Wreck has won eight in a row in the ACC, and claimed the trophy in Greensboro. Steals are live ball turnovers, and that’s where the Jackets can really hurt opponents. How they defend Loyola in the post will be a key.

Moses Wright was the ACC Player of The Year, and no one seems to be talking about him. But getting 17 & 8 for a team that is on this kind of run shows how good he is.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point Spread: Loyola-Chicago -2.5
Point Total: 126
Moneyline: Loyola-Chicago -141, Georgia Tech +118

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Loyola-Chicago
Point total pick: Under 126
Pick to Win: Loyola-Chicago

126?? These teams might not score that many if they play a doubleheader. First one to 40 survives and advances here, but it will come down to how well can the Ramblers protect the rock and cut down on live ball turnovers. If this becomes a battle of half-court basketball, you might think there’s a lid on the rim.

We’ll take Loyola if forced to, but we don’t love it against the spread.