Record: 10-7 (6-2 home)
Conference: Horizon (2-3)
RPI: No. 125 (vs. Butler #4)
Sagarin’s: No. 152 (vs. Butler #18)
Best Wins: Georgia (W 74-53), UW-Green Bay (W 62-60)
Notable Losses: @Clev St (L 76-50), Rockhurst (D-II) (L 86-79)
Notes: Loyola is a confusing team to scout, because they are so inconsistent. Case and point: The Ramblers opened the season with a loss to Rockhurst, a Division-II school, and then proceeded to blow out Georgia, 74-53, the very next game. And after going 4-5 in its first nine games, Loyola rebounded winning six of its last eight. What makes the team’s inconsistency even more perplexing is that it is battle-tested (four senior starters). The one player that does bring it for the Ramblers game-after-game is point guard J.R. Blount. The Milwaukee-area product is second in the Horizon League in scoring (15.1 ppg) and third in assists (3.9 apg). On offense, look for Loyola to beat Butler in the paint. The team has eight players on its roster over 6-6 and leads the HL in field goal percentage (42.9%).
Other key stats:
Scoring margin: -1.1
Rebounding margin: 0.0
Turnover ratio: +1.24
3-point percentage: 31%
Loyola PG Blount, J.R. 6’1 180lbs SR
PPG: 15.5, RPG: 3.9, APG: 3.9
Butler PG Nored, Ronald 6’0 170lbs FR
PPG: 4.1, RPG: 2.9, APG: 2.6
Blount’s size doesn’t wow you, but he’s tough. His game revolves around beating defenders off the dribble and taking it to the rim where he draws a lot of fouls. He’s second in the league in free-throw attempts to Matt Howard. (I would compare him to Mike Green, but that would be blasphemous). Nored, on the other hand, is still struggling with consistency. He had zero assists and three turnovers against Detroit.
Loyola SG Van Weelden, Aric 6’3 190lbs JR
PPG: 3.1, RPG: 2.4, APG: 1.6
Butler SG Mack, Shelvin 6’3 185lbs FR
PPG: 12.3, RPG: 3.8, APG: 3.6
Van Weelden recently became a starter and is a roll player more than anything. He hit all four of his 3’s in Loyola’s win over Youngstown St last Saturday but has only attempted 10 tres all season. Don’t expect him to log more than 20 minutes versus Butler. Meanwhile, Mack is in a bit of a shooting slump. In his last three games since lighting up UAB for 25, he has shot 33 percent from the field.
Loyola G/F Cerasoli, Justin 6’5 190lbs SR
PPG: 10.8, RPG: 2.9, APG: 2.5
Butler F Hayward, Gordon 6’8 180lbs FR
PPG: 12.9, RPG: 6.9, APG: 1.6
Cerasoli is a long, slashing guard who gets most of his points around the rim and at the foul line. However, after scoring 15 points in a surprise win over UWGB, Cerasoli has missed 18 of his last 20 shots. Butler’s Hayward scored just five points against Detroit, but he showed some resolve by drilling a long jumper in what turned out to be the game’s deciding possession. Still, Coach Stevens has to be pushing him to be more aggressive on offense (just six field goal attempts against Detroit).
Loyola F Young, Leon 6’6 235lbs SR
PPG: 10.6, RPG: 6.5, APG: 0.7
Butler F Veasley, Willie 6’3 190lbs JR
PPG: 8.0, RPG: 4.0, APG: 1.2
Young’s a bruiser who is really tenacious (Jay Bilism) in the post. His footwork, offensive rebounding, and bulk have helped him become one of the top players in the HL in terms of field goal percentage. He currently ranks fourth in FG percentage and is the only player in the top four with over 50 attempts. Last year, Young was instrumental to Loyola’s success. He averaged 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in the games Loyola won, 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds above his season average. Veasley narrowly missed a third-straight game with double-digits in scoring against Detroit. He’s become a leader by example for Butler.
Loyola F Williams, Darrin 6’8 240lbs SR
PPG: 8.0, RPG: 5.6, APG: 0.5
Butler C Howard, Matt 6’8 220lbs SO
PPG: 14.1, RPG: 6.5, APG: 1.1
Williams has made the most of his senior year, doubling his point’s average and leading the Ramblers in blocked shots. Howard, on the other hand, was a force in both games against Loyola last season averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds. He continues to have big games this season for Butler despite persistent foul trouble.
F Forman, Ross 6’8 210lbs JR PPG: 3.4, RPG: 2.7, APG: 0.9
G Gibler, Walt 6’7 230lbs FR PPG: 4.6, RPG: 2.6, APG: 0.6
F Thomas, Marcus 6’2 190lbs JR PPG: 6.3, RPG: 1.4, APG: 0.5
*F Polka, Andy 6’7 240lbs JR PPG: 8.1, RPG: 6.1, APG: 0.9
G Hahn, Zach 6’0 170lbs SO PPG: 5.5, RPG: 1.9, APG: 0.9
F Jukes, Avery 6’8 215lbs JR PPG: 4.3, RPG: 2.2, APG: 0.4
G Vanzant, Shawn 6’1 175lbs SO PPG: 3.2, RPG: 2.0, APG: 1.0
Loyola brings size and productivity off the bench with Thomas and Forman. Forman is averaging 20-plus minutes per game, but hasn’t produced much offensively. Polka’s injury in late December really hurt Loyola. He was one of the Ramblers’ better players and a sure-fire starter. He’s not expected to play today. Jukes' output was one of the few bright spots for Butler against Detroit. He’s really bought into the “team” philosophy, better known as the Butler Way, this season.
Final Analysis: Butler is coming off arguably its worst performance all season against Detroit. (And I’m coming off my worst prediction all season. Butler by 25? Yeah, not so much.) You have to wonder what kind of impact the Thursday-Saturday turnarounds will have on the freshmen the rest of the way. Was the Detroit game just an off-night or a premonition for more Thursday-Saturday struggles? The good news is, Butler has had a number of days to prepare for Loyola and the likelihood of making just two three pointers for a second straight game is slim. Unfortunately, for Butler, Loyola has a knack for forcing opponents’ big men into foul trouble. Butler needs to avoid ticky-tack fouls or they’ll be in trouble. (That means you, Matt Howard). I like Butler in this one for the simple fact that Brad Stevens has had four days to prepare against an inferior team. The guy is a flat out winner. A win will raise his record to 45-5 in his first 50 games as head coach. Amazing.
Prediction: Butler 66, Loyola 59
Thoughts on the game? Do you think Butler will win handily or will Loyola threaten an upset?