Men's Basketball

Scouting the Loyola Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Competitors

Zack Miller | The PhoenixRedshirt junior guard Braden Norris brought in 17 points against UW-Stout Nov. 3.

The Loyola men’s basketball team has already faced its first two competitors, but there’s still a long line of non-conference competitors ahead for the Ramblers this season. 

Loyola will face at least ten more non-conference contenders this season, up from just 8 during the regular season last year. 

The Ramblers have already faced its first two non-conference teams, with the Ramblers taking out University of Wisconsin-Stout 93-41 in an exhibition game Nov. 3. 

Loyola started its official season off strong with a 103-45 victory over Coppin State University at home Nov. 9. Graduate forward Aher Uguak led Loyola in scoring with 16 points. 

Redshirt junior guard Braden Norris leads the Ramblers as a whole in scoring with 30 points scored over the first two games. 

With Loyola remaining unstoppable offensively, the Ramblers continue non-conference play with a 2-0 record.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU)

This will be the first time the Ramblers will meet FGCU in program history. The Eagles became a Division I member in 2011 and compete in the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) Conference, a mid-major conference hosting teams mostly in the Southeastern United States. 

Although FGCU hasn’t made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2017, the Eagles know a thing or two about Cinderella runs — just like Loyola. In 2013, FGCU became the first No. 15-seeded team to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. 

One player to watch out for during this matchup is graduate center Kevin Samuel. Samuel transferred to FGCU from Texas Christian University, where he started in every game over three seasons and averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

Samuel was also named the ASUN Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021-2022 season. He and the rest of the Eagles will face off against Loyola in Gentile Arena Nov. 13.

Chicago State University (CSU)

Loyola will meet CSU for the fourth time in program history in Gentile Arena Nov. 16. The Ramblers currently hold a 3-0 record over the Cougars, with Loyola taking the most recent win 88-51 last season.

CSU returns only three players from last season’s roster and welcomes 12 newcomers, including 7 first-year players. Head coach Gerald Gillion will be making his collegiate head coaching debut with the Cougars, who were selected to finish 13th out of the 13 teams in the Western Athletic Conference.

Gillion comes to CSU after spending a year as an assistant coach at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

Junior guard Brandon Betson had a breakout game during the Cougars’ first game of the season Nov. 9. Betson brought in 22 points from off the bench against University of St. Thomas. He also contributed four assists in the team’s 77-72 victory over the Tommies.

University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)

UIC is one of Loyola’s typical Chicagoland competitors. The two teams have met 24 times, with the Ramblers holding the series record 15-9 and going undefeated since 2013.

Loyola has won every contest between the two teams played at Gentile Arena since 2010, which speaks to the Ramblers’ overall success at home.

During the 2020-2021 season, Loyola went 13-0 when they played in Gentile Arena against both non-conference and MVC competitors.

Despite this daunting at home record, UIC graduate guard Kevin Johnson might give the Ramblers a run for their money during the matchup. Johnson transferred for his fifth year from Nicholls State University, where he averaged 11.3 points per contest and left as the all-time leader in steals. 

The Flames are tabbed to finish eighth out of 12 teams in the Horizon League under first-year head coach Luke Yaklich and will face the Ramblers once again in Gentile Arena Nov. 20.

Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis tournament

Loyola will play Michigan State University during the first day of the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas Nov. 24. This will be the third time the two teams will meet, with Michigan State taking both previous games.

Michigan State is currently just shy of the AP Top 25 Poll, leading the other teams receiving votes with 87 points. Senior forward Gabe Brown is the highest-scoring returning player, averaging 7.2 points per game and leading the team last season in 3-point percentage.

The tournament will be played round-robin style. This means that the Ramblers will play in all three days of the tournament no matter the outcome of their games.

Loyola will go on to play either No. 22 Auburn University or No. 24 University of Connecticut in the second round of the tournament Nov. 25.

Despite First-Team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) selection Allen Flanigan being out for 12-14 weeks due to an injury, Auburn still has plenty of talent ready for the tournament.

First-year guard Jabari Smith was voted Second-Team All-SEC, despite never playing in a collegiate game. Smith was the highest-ranked recruit in the history of the Tigers program.

If they don’t meet the Tigers, the Ramblers will instead face the UConn Huskies. UConn returns graduate guard R.J. Cole, who was the roster’s leading scorer from last season.

Cole was selected to the Big East Conference Second Team after averaging 12.2 points and 4.3 assists per game last season.

The rest of the teams competing in the tournament are No. 8 Baylor University, Syracuse University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Arizona State University. 

After the tournament, the Ramblers will head back to the Midwest to face their first MVC competitor — Indiana State University at home Dec. 1.

Loyola will then return to non-MVC play to compete against the next contender before returning back to the Valley to finish out MVC play, beginning with Southern Illinois University on the road Jan. 2.

DePaul University

The 2021-22 season marks the first time Loyola will face “Red-Line Rival” DePaul since 2012. The Blue Demons hold the series 2-1 over the Ramblers, which Loyola is looking to tie on the road Dec. 4. 

DePaul was picked to finish last in the Big East Conference, despite having several promising players on its roster. One of these players is senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty, who averaged 14.4 points per contest during his first season with DePaul. 

Freeman-Liberty is no stranger to facing MVC competitors, as he spent three years playing with Valparaiso University. He’s also a Chicago local and played with Loyola graduate guard Lucas Williamson at Whitney Young High School.

Roosevelt University

Loyola will add a new Chicagoland competitor this season when they face Roosevelt University at home Dec. 7. Roosevelt competes in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, which is a part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). 

Roosevelt is the only non-NCAA competitor the Ramblers will face this season. The Lakers revived their athletic program after 20 years without play in 2010. 

The Lakers went 3-8 last year but have some high scoring players on their roster — including junior guard Justus Mouton. Mouton brought in 18 points and 6 rebounds during Roosevelt’s Nov. 3 win over Calumet College of St. Joseph.

Vanderbilt University

Loyola and Vanderbilt University have met only once before, but the Ramblers are looking to maintain an undefeated record after defeating the Commodores 78-70 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase game in 2019. 

Returning to the Vanderbilt roster is junior guard Scotty Pippen Jr., who was named the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Preseason Player of the Year. Pippen Jr. averaged 20.8 points per game last season and is the son of six-time NBA champion and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen. 

The Ramblers will travel to Nashville from Rogers Park to face off against Pippen Jr. and the rest of the Commodores for the second time Dec. 10.

Norfolk State University

This will be Norfolk State‘s fifth trip to Rogers Park to compete against Loyola, with the Ramblers going undefeated over the Spartans in four games from 2016 to 2019. 

Norfolk State is fresh off a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament title and welcomes back senior guard Joe Bryant Jr. The guard was named the 2021 MEAC Tournament’s most outstanding player and averaged 11.1 points per game during his junior season. 

The Spartans are tabbed to finish first in the MEAC, according to the conference’s preseason poll. They will travel to Chicago from Virginia to play the Ramblers Dec. 19. 

Davidson College

Davidson College will be Loyola’s final non-conference competitor for the 2021-22 regular season. The Wildcats have been slated to finish sixth out of 14 teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference. 

This is the second time the Ramblers and Wildcats will meet, with Davidson taking the last contest 59-56. 

One of the standout players from the Wildcats is junior guard Hyunjung Lee. During his sophomore season, Lee led the Davidson roster in 3-point shooting with 44% accuracy and averaged 13.5 points and 4 rebounds per contest. 

The Ramblers will hit the road to meet the Wildcats Dec. 22 before returning to MVC play against Southern Illinois University Jan. 2.

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