On Friday, Loyola Chicago and Ohio State will face off at 12:15 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, kicking off Friday’s four-game slate in the Steel City.
The 7-seeded Buckeyes finished the season a solid 19-11 overall, but are currently on a two-game losing streak including a loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament.
“I think the most important thing for Ohio State now, is can they get healthy,” Mike DeCourcy told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “They’re going to play an excellent team in Loyola that had a late-season funk in the Valley, but got themselves back together and were terrific in the Missouri Valley tournament and seem to be ready to compete in this one.”
Led by third-team All-American EJ Liddell, Ohio State picked up big wins this season over tournament teams Duke, Illinois, Michigan, Seton Hall, and Wisconsin. In addition to Liddell, Ohio State has looked to Malaki Branham (13.3 ppg), Kyle Young (8.2 ppg), and Zed Key (8.1 ppg) for scoring. However, as of late, Young and Key have both been sidelined recently, and as of Wednesday, are both game-time decisions according to head coach Chris Holtmann.
“It was a really heavy load with players injured and just lack of depth,” DeCourcy continued. “They were really thin. So playing all those games down he stretch really caught up to them. It took them from a solid 4-5 seed all the way down to a 7. I don’t know what Kyle’s situation will be for this tournament, it’s good that he had some rest obviously. I don’t now if Zed will continue to be bothered by his ankle. I’m not sure if losing in the conference tournament when they did hurt them that much, because they needed rest more than they needed more games.”
The 10-seeded Ramblers of Loyola finished the year 25-7, winning their last three games en route to a Missouri Valley Conference championship.
The Ramblers are making their third tournament appearance in the last five years, but their first with first-year head coach Drew Valentine. Valentine’s squad has looked to veteran Lucas Williamson to lead the team, and he is averaging a team-high 14 points per game while shooting 45.3% from the field.
After Williamson, look for guard Braden Norris, who is averaging 10.3 points and shooting 44% from three-point range, and forward Ryan Schwieger, who is averaging 9.2 points, for production.
The game will be televised on CBS, with tip off set for 12:15 p.m.
According to DraftKings, Ohio State is favored by one point. The over/under is set at 132.5 points.