Loyola hosts UIC on Saturday in this year’s installment of the local rivalry. The Ramblers have won the last three meetings and four of the last five. They have not lost to the Flames at Gentile Arena since Feb. 27, 2009.
What you should know about UIC (1-7, No. 334 KenPom):
UIC is still looking for its first win against Division I competition. After getting blown out four tries in a row, at least the Flames’ last two defeats have been close. They led Illinois and Illinois State by multiple possessions in the second half, but lost leads both times.
Freshman guard Dominique Matthews is breaking out as a scorer. Freshman forward Dikembe Dixson has also shown he will be in the Horizon League Rookie of the Year race. Even freshman guard Michael Kolawole, who was not supposed to play much a role in his first year, has made big strides in the last few games.
UIC is one of the youngest teams in the country, but its newcomers are starting to find their place on the team.
The Flames are a double-digit underdog Saturday, as they deserve to be. But with the way they’ve been playing lately, an upset is not out of the question.
What you should know about Loyola (5-5, No. 185 KenPom):
Loyola upset Creighton and then went toe to toe with Notre Dame into the second half. The Ramblers followed that with an abysmal performance at home to Cleveland State in a 60-54 loss.
Loyola was without injured senior forward Montel James, who’s status for Saturday remains up in the air. As of Wednesday, James had resumed workouts but had not had a full practice.
Without James, Loyola has no options for post scoring. The Ramblers’ strongest area is its backcourt with a plethora of talented guards, led by junior Milton Doyle and senior Earl Peterson. Those two and their supporting cast are capable of being effective without James on the floor, but to maximize their capabilities, but they need at least one adequate big man as a foil.
On the defensive end, Dixson could pose a mismatch issue for Loyola as a 6-foot-7 perimeter player. The Ramblers are undersized to begin with, and their biggest players will be busy dealing with 6-foot-9 center Tai Odiase, who is averaging 8.9 points per game.
How to watch, listen, stream and bet:
Start time: 3 p.m. CT
Radio: ESPN1000 Chicago
Line: Loyola -13
Sagarin: Loyola – 15
KenPom: Loyola 76, UIC 63 (90%)