The 2021 NCAA Tournament field is set and March Madness is just about ready to tip off, but there is still time for brackets to be filled out. As fantasy players look to fill out brackets for office pools and bracket challenges, they will continue to examine every region to look for sleepers and stats that can help differentiate their picks.

Typically, the thorn in the side of many during bracket season are those tricky 9-seed vs. 8-seed matchups. They are often a coin flip and since the winner nearly always goes on to face a No. 1 seed, many don’t think much of these games. But often, they end up being the one decision that can make or break a shot at a perfect bracket in the early stages.

Loyola Chicago and Georgia Tech are squaring off in what appears to be the most lopsided 9-8 matchup this year. The 8-seed Ramblers (24-4, 16-2 MVC) appear to be a bit underseeded and their track record could make them an appealing sleeper target this year — if their smaller-name conference doesn’t scare you away.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets (17-8, 11-6 ACC) are on a tear and are fresh off a surprising ACC Tournament title, but will they be able to solve their foes from a smaller conference?

Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup between Loyola Chicago and Georgia Tech, including rankings, key players, season breakdowns and more:

EXPERT BRACKET PICKS:
DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga) | Lutovsky (Baylor)

Loyola Chicago vs. Georgia Tech odds

Loyala Chicago vs. Georgia Tech is scheduled to be the seventh game played in the first round of March Madness and it will be the first 9-8 matchup to take place during the NCAA Tournament. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Loyola Chicago is currently the slight favorite. Below are the details of their game, including the betting odds, time, TV and venue.

  • Odds: Loyola Chicago (-2.5)
  • Date: Friday, March 19
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Arena: Hinkle Fieldhouse

Loyola Chicago (24-4, 16-2 Missouri Valley Conference)

Loyola Chicago doesn’t exactly have a rich history on the basketball court, as they’ve only made the NCAA Tournament seven times in program history including 2021. More than half of those appearances came in the 1960s.

However, the team does have one of the most memorable Cinderella runs to the Final Four. They made March Madness as the MVC winner in 2018, and the 11-seeded Ramblers upset Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State before ultimately falling to the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines. During that run, team chaplain Sister Jean achieved cult status and cemented herself as the unofficial mascot of the Ramblers.

This year, the Ramblers have put forth a terrific season and were ranked No. 17 overall headings into the tournament. They have relied on their excellent defense to win them games throughout the year. They have just four losses on the year and two of them came to tournament-bound teams, the Wisconsin Badger and Drake Bulldogs., and won 17 of their last 18 games of the season. The only loss against Drake was by a single point in overtime.

The Ramblers won all three of their MVC games by double digits and while they landed a No. 8 seed as Sporting News’ Bill Bender projected they would, the team easily could’ve been rated higher thanks to their top-10 NET ranking.

  • NET ranking: 10
  • KenPom ranking: 9
  • Quad 1 record: 2-2
  • Quad 2 record: 4-2
  • Quad 3 record: 4-0
  • Quad 4 record: 12-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 49th
  • Defensive efficiency: 1st

Key players

Cameron Krutwig (6-9, 255-pound senior center)
15.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.0 apg

Lucas Williamson (6-4, 205-pound senior guard)
8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg

Braden Norris (6-0, 180-pound sophomore guard)
8.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.9 apg

Aher Uguak (6-7, 225-pound senior forward)
7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg

Keith Clemons (6-1, 180-pound senior guard)
7.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

REGION BREAKDOWNS:
WEST | EAST | SOUTH | MIDWEST

Georgia Tech (17-8, 11-6 ACC)

Georgia Tech has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 16 times since the expansion to 64 teams and was the runner-up in 2004. That was the last time that they made it to the Final Four, but coach Josh Pastner is looking to change that.

The Yellow Jackets didn’t get off to a good start this season. They were just 10-8 more than midway through the year and they lost the first two contests they played to Georgia State, in a quadruple-overtime game, and Mercer. But at the end of the year, Georgia Tech turned up the intensity. ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jose Alvarado helped key a seven-game winning streak that culminated with an ACC Tournament win over the Florida State Seminoles.

Georgia Tech has some bad losses on their schedule as previously mentioned, but they did beat Virginia Tech once and Florida State in two of their three meetings. They did lose once to the Seminoles and also dropped two games against Virginia, so their record against ranked teams on the year was mixed. The hot stretch at the end of the year and ACC Tournament title is what ultimately got them into March Madness. 

  • NET ranking: 33
  • KenPom ranking: 32
  • Quad 1 record: 3-6
  • Quad 2 record: 6-0
  • Quad 3 record: 5-2
  • Quad 4 record: 3-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 27th
  • Defensive efficiency: 52nd

Key players

Moses Wright (6-9, 233-pound senior forward)
17.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.3 apg

Jose Alvarado (6-0, 179-pound senior guard)
15.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg

Michael Devoe (6-5, 197-pound junior guard)
15.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg

Jordan Usher (6-7, 213-pound senior guard)
11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg

Bubba Parham (5-10, 162-pound senior guard)
6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

BRACKET TIPS: KenPom | Play the odds | Idiot’s guide

Loyola Chicago vs. Georgia Tech prediction

This game has the potential to be a defensive struggle. Though Georgia Tech has solid offense, Loyola Chicago has allowed just 55.8 points per game this season. That is the best mark in the NCAA.

The Ramblers have good size and defensive versatility, so they should have a chance to slow down the Yellow Jackets offense. Georgia Tech has four players that average at least 11.5 points per game, but in their seven non-quadruple-overtime losses, the team has averaged just 63.3 points per game. So, they can be slowed down.

If Georgia Tech wants to win this game, they’re going to have to shoot well from long-distance. They have four regular rotation players that shoot at least 36.4 percent from the field, so if they can’t consistently break down the Ramblers defense, they’re going to have to hit some long balls to maximize their point production.

As for Loyola, they have the upper hand in this one. If they just play strong defense and stay efficient on the offensive end of the floor, they’ll have a chance to win. They have the third-best field goal percentage in the NCAA at 50.5 percent, behind only Gonzaga and Stephen F. Austin, so they should have a good chance to put the pressure on the Yellow Jackets early.

History of 8 vs. 9 matchups in NCAA Tournament

In truth, throughout the history of the NCAA Tournament, the 9 and 8 seed matchup has been relatively even. It’s the biggest coin-flip on any bracket, and it’s the only one of the typical first-round matchups where the underdog has an advantage over the higher-seeded team. The No. 9 seeds hold a slight edge of 72-68.

If you’re looking at recent history, the No. 8 seed has held a slight edge of late. They have posted a 24-20 record over the last 11 NCAA Tournaments, but it is worth noting that No. 9 seeds won all the 9-8 matchups last year.

So, what does this mean? There isn’t much to be learned from the trends. What matters most here is the matchup and in this case, Loyola Chicago appears to have a sizeable advantage.

Below is a breakdown of the wins 9 seeds have enjoyed over 8 seeds the last 10 tournaments:

YearResult
2019UCF 73, VCU 58
 Baylor 78, Syracuse 69
 Oklahoma 95, Ole Miss 72
 Washington 78, Utah State 61
2018Alabama 86, Virginia Tech 83
 Kansas State 69, Creighton 59
 Florida State 67, Missouri 54
2017Michigan State 78, Miami 58
2016Butler 71, Texas Tech 61
 Providence 70, USC 69
 Uconn 74, Colorado 67
2014Pittsburgh 77, Colorado 48
2013Temple 76, NC State 72
 Wichita State 73, Pittsburgh 55
2012St. Louis 61, Memphis 54
2011Illinois 73, UNLV 62
2010Wake Forest 81, Texas 80
 Northern Iowa 69, UNLV 66
2009Siena 74, Ohio State 72
 Texas A&M 79, BYU 66





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