Bradley vs. Loyola Chicago Prediction: Expect This MVC Matchup To Come Down to the Wire

College basketball expert Mike Spector offers his best bet for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup between Bradley and Loyola Chicago.
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Bradley vs. Loyola Chicago Prediction: Expect This MVC Matchup To Come Down to the Wire

Arguably the “game of the day” on Friday’s college basketball slate is a quarterfinal matchup of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament between the Bradley Braves and Loyola Chicago Ramblers. The Braves and Ramblers have combined for the last four MVC Tournament championships, as each has won two in that span. 

How will each team’s prior success on this stage factor into this head-to-head meeting? 

Here are our picks and predictions for the quarterfinal matchup of the MVC Tournament between Bradley and Loyola Chicago.

Click here for Bradley vs Loyola Chicago Odds

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Bradley (17-13, 11-7) split its two regular-season matchups with Loyola, with each team winning on their home floor. The Braves took the Ramblers to overtime in their meeting in Chicago, and each of their two games was decided by seven points. Bradley’s 68-61 win on February 9th snapped a five-game losing streak to Loyola.

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Bradley’s calling card is an impenetrable defense that ranks No. 1 in the league in adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom), effective field goal percentage allowed, 3-point percentage allowed (31.9%), and offensive rebounding percentage allowed. Not only do the Braves limit opponents’ offensive rebounds at the highest rate, they secure 32.4% of their misses, which also ranks best in the league. They outrebounded the Ramblers by five in their win against them, and controlling the backboards will once again be key if they want to pull the upset.

The Ramblers (22-7, 13-5) missed a golden opportunity to win the MVC regular-season title and enter the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed, but they dropped to fourth in the standings after a 102-96 road loss to Northern Iowa in the regular-season finale. If Loyola loses early in this tournament, their at-large chances will generate fascinating discussion, as they enter the day ranked a respectable 31st in the NET despite owning just two Quad 1 victories. Thus, it would behoove the Ramblers to take care of business in this quarterfinal, as claiming an at-large berth as a mid-major is a daunting task, especially after failing to win the league’s regular-season title.

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While Loyola Chicago’s nucleus of Braden Norris, Lucas Williamson, and Keith Clemons is experienced (with Williamson having played in the Final Four), there is still sure to be a pressure they will feel from avoiding an early-round loss as they fight for their NCAA Tournament lives. Meanwhile, the Braves have a head coach in Brian Wardle that knows what it takes to win on this stage and has a squad that can play much more loosely without an at-large berth to be sweating about. 

The Braves gave the Ramblers all they could handle in two meetings this year, and this third game between them should be epic. This season, Bradley is a profitable 7-5 ATS as underdogs and is 17-12 ATS in 29 games overall. Meanwhile, Loyola went a paltry 4-13-1 ATS in league games this year, as oddsmakers continue to inflate their point spreads, with the Ramblers being a household name ever since their Final Four run. Bradley went a respectable 4-4 SU against teams ahead of them in the league standings, and we advise taking the points with the live underdog who has nothing to lose.

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Bradley Braves vs Loyola Chicago Ramblers Pick

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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