Preview by Nick Dettmann
No. 8 Loyola vs. No. 4 Detroit
The Ramblers advanced to the second round courtesy of their upset win over Wright State in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday night. The Ramblers had previously lost six of their last seven games at Wright State with its last five losses being decided by less than seven points and two were in overtime. It was their fourth win in their last six postseason games. Loyola has shot better than 42 percent from the field in 11 straight games going into play on Friday night. Also in those last 11 games, senior Paul McMillan has scored in double figures averaging 16.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over the course of the season. Demetrius Williams is a another threat for Larry Farmer as the senior forward/center is averaging 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest. The key for Loyola will be to put some points on the board. They are the No. 2 offense in the Horizon League only behind UW-Milwaukee. While the Titans are seventh, but are the No. 2 defense in the league. Put points on the board and Loyola will be bound for yet another upset.
The Titans won their ninth straight game after a 62-36 blowout over the lowly Cleveland State Vikings. Elijah Warren is the team leader with 11.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. But the catalyst to the late season turnaround was Jimmy Twyman. Twyman was inserted into the starting line-up on Feb. 5 against Youngstown State. The Titans have not lost a game since that move. Twyman scored 13 points on Tuesday night. Perry Watson’s line-up, which is one of the best defensive crews in the league, has one of the top defensive players in the league, James Thues. Defense is going to be the key for Detroit. A key match-up is going to be Warren guarding McMillan.
Prediction: Detroit 64, Loyola 58
No. 6 Butler vs. No. 3 UW-Green Bay
Thanks to an 11-5 league record and a third place finish in the standings, the Phoenix earned a very important first round bye. The Phoenix made one of the biggest turnarounds in the league. Last season, they went 4-12 in the league and lost in the first round at home to Youngstown State in the opening round. This season, the Phoenix went 11-5 and 11-3 at home. UW-Green Bay has the most balanced offense in the entire league as they have six players averaging at least 7.5 points per game. Leading the way is All-Newcomer team selection Brandon Morris who averages 11.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. Senior Mike King is second on the team as he averages 10.9 pints and 4.0 rebounds per game off the bench. The key for Green Bay is take the home crowd out of the game. UWGB defeated Butler at the Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season by shooting over 50 percent from the field. They will need to do that again as Butler is one of the worst defensive units in the conference, but have picked it up in recent games. Defense will also be a key as Butler is 10-1 when they scored at least 65 points.
The Bulldogs assured themselves hosting privileges by beating Youngstown State in easy fashion on Tuesday night. Butler comes in playing its best basketball of the season by winning 11 of their last 15 games. Butler leads the league in the fewest turnovers per game at 10.6. If Butler struggles to control the ball, they will be in trouble. But if this one gets close, Butler will have the advantage. Not only due to the fact that they are on their home floor, but they are 4-2 in overtime games this season. Mike Monserez, Avery Sheets, Duane Lightfoot and Bruce Horan will all have to play a factor in some shape way or form. If one struggles, the others better pick him up because Green Bay is deeper on the bench, however, one game already this week might be advantage as Green Bay has not played in five days.
Prediction: UW-Green Bay 73, Butler 70