In its final home game of the season, Loyola welcomes Wichita State to Gentile Arena on Wednesday. The Ramblers are fighting for MVC Tournament seeding while the Shockers have already clinched the No. 1 spot and are looking to pile it on.
What you should know about Wichita State (21-7, 14-2 MVC; No. 10 KenPom)
— Wichita State just clinched its third straight MVC regular season title and fourth in the last five years with Sunday’s win.
“Expectations were that we would win the title,” coach Gregg Marshall said. “The crazy thing is people are surprised when we lose. That’s a little bit of a burden to bear. You’ve got 18 games, two a week for nine weeks, you’re going to some tough spots. They circle that date on the calendar when the Shockers are coming in.”
— The Shockers have won each of their last three games by at least 30 points.
“Thanks for that stat,” Loyola coach Porter Moser joked in Monday’s media teleconference. “They’ve obviously bounced back since their loss against Northern Iowa in dramatic fashion. They’re absolutely thumping everybody.”
— Wichita State ranks No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. The last time a team scored more than 0.95 points per possession against the Shockers was Jan. 6, when Evansville scored 64 points in 62 opportunities.
Wichita State suffocates opposing offenses and forces turnovers in 23.7 percent of opponents’ possessions. Loyola also has one of the nation’s better defenses and forces turnovers in 22.1 percent of possessions.
However, one big difference is that Wichita State takes good care of the ball on offense while Loyola does not. The Shockers turn the ball over barely more than once every seven possessions. The Ramblers turn the ball over nearly once every five possessions.
—Wichita State guard Evan Wessel leads Division I with a 89.7 career winning percentage with a 104-12 record.
“Evan, all he does is win,” Marshall said.
Wessel also won three high school basketball state championships and one football state championship before coming to Wichita State.
What you should know about Loyola (14-14, 7-9 MVC; No. 168 KenPom)
— Loyola comes in with wins in four of its last five games.
“They’re playing like the team everyone expected going in to the year,” Marshall said. “They finished last year on such a high note and had a lot of guys returning from that team. They’ve kind of reached that same level of play, it seems. We anticipate a team that’s going to play hard, defends really well and they seem to be healthy now.”
Loyola upset Northern Iowa in its most recent home game last week. Three days before that the Ramblers nearly came back from down 19 points against Evansville but lost 74-73 for their only defeat in the last five games.
— Montel James may not be Loyola’s most talented player, but he has often been the team’s X-factor. The 6-foot-7 senior is fresh off a double-double, posting 14 points and 10 rebounds Sunday against Missouri State.
“When he’s playing well, we’ve won. When you look at our biggest struggles, he’s struggled,” Moser said. “He’s been a key for us. The best thing that’s happened is last game, he started out really struggling and in the second half the first two plays that he made were an offensive rebound effort play and a charge. He’s had the [modus operandi] of when his shots weren’t falling, he wasn’t rebounding and he wasn’t playing defense. Last night was a great sign of him that he can be a great rebounder and a great defender if his shot is not falling.”
—Loyola is fighting to avoid Thursday night at the MVC Tournament. Loyola is currently in a three-way tie with Indiana State and Missouri State for the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament. Whichever gets the No. 6 seed gets a bye to the quarterfinals next Friday whereas the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds join the opening round next Thursday.
“We all have our goal pyramids at the start of the year. Ours obviously was to win the conference,” Moser said. “There became a point because of the hole we dug that we knew we would not win the league obviously. But we reset our goals. I’m a big believer you’ve got to be fighting for something. These guys have shown some grit. Obviously you want to get out of that first day. We definitely are talking about that with our guys.”
—It’s senior night. Loyola will honor four seniors, all of whom have played significant roles on this team: James, Devon Turk, Jeff White and Earl Peterson.
James has been a crucial piece of Loyola’s front court the last two seasons. Turk is the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. White emerged as a vocal leader late this season during Loyola’s recent hot streak. Peterson has been a skilled secondary scorer in his two years with the program and was the CBI MVP when Loyola won the postseason tournament title last season.
How to watch, listen, stream and bet:
Start time: 8 p.m. CT
TV: CSN Chicago +
App/Online: ESPN3 (subject to blackout)
Line: Wichita State -13
Sagarin: Wichita State -11.5
KenPom: Wichita State 65, Loyola 56 (85 percent)