Len Elmore "Not Surprised At All" By Loyola-Chicago's Run

Surprised by Loyola's run to the Final Four? Shocked? Len Elmore is neither

The DA Show
March 30, 2018 - 1:03 pm

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The Final Four has arrived, and Loyola-Chicago shouldn’t be here.

That’s not to say that the Ramblers (32-5) haven’t earned their spot. They have. But based on history and seeding, they should have lost to No. 6 Miami. Or No. 3 Tennessee. Or No. 7 Nevada. Or No. 9 Kansas State.

But they didn’t.

Still, will the clock strike midnight on this Cinderella story Saturday in San Antonio?

“Not necessarily,” Turner Sports NCAA analyst Len Elmore said on The DA Show. “Look, this is a quality team. You can call them Cinderella because of their seeding, but remember: they’re Missouri Valley Conference champions. They’re not slouches. They’ve got terrific offense and shoot the ball extremely well. They’re among the leaders in the nation in field-goal percentage and they are a pretty good defensive team as well.”

Loyola benefitted from late-game heroics in each of its first three wins before cruising to a 78-62 win over K-State. If you’re surprised by this run, okay, but you shouldn’t be shocked.

Elmore sure isn’t.

“I’m not shocked at all because the distribution of talent across the nation is such that there’s not a lot of difference between the power conferences and the top teams and the so-called mid-majors,” he said. “Those guys are usually the second- or third-best players on their high school team, and if they come from small cities and small towns, they may be the best player on their team. The best players have a great deal of confidence. So those guys have chips on their shoulders, a lot to prove. I’m not surprised at all.”

Of course, not all 11-seeds are created equally. Loyola, which won the Missouri Valley Conference, has won 21 of its last 22 games.

“The Missouri Valley Conference is one of those conferences that is pretty much competitive,” Elmore said. “Remember: a competitive team over the years like Wichita State, for the longest time, was a Missouri Valley Conference team.”

In other words, this isn’t George Mason coming out of the Colonial in 2006. That surprised Elmore. But Loyola? Nope.

“This year, no,” he said. “And over the last couple of years, no, I wouldn't have been – just as if Wichita State had stayed in the Missouri Valley Conference and they went to the Final Four, which they did (in 2013), I wouldn’t have been shocked, no.”

But will Loyola beat No. 3 Michigan (32-7) and advance to the championship?

Maybe.

“I think they just have to play defense the way they played it all season,” Elmore said. “They’ve got guys who are capable of switching. They can switch out 1-to-4 on any kind of screen, certainly with Aundre Jackson playing in the middle instead of (freshman Cameron) Krutwig. They’re able to go out and guard guys on the perimeter. Jackson, even though he’s 6-8, still can hold his own inside. (Mo) Wagner at 6-10, 6-11 may want to post him up down low. But I think Jackson is able to hold his own.

“It’s really about how well they can challenge Michigan from the perimeter with their shooting,” Elmore continued. “And then on the offensive end, can they run their stuff? Michigan is much improved defensively from the middle of the season on.”