One of the darlings of last season’s NCAA Tournament will get its campaign started this evening as No. 9 Florida Atlantic meets Loyola Chicago as college basketball odds favorites in the Barstool Invitational.
The Owls open the year with an interesting challenge. Although Loyola Chicago took a significant step back last season under second-year coach Drew Valentine, it's still a household mid-major that can attract excellent talent.
Find out in our college basketball picks and predictions for Wednesday, November 8.
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago best odds
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago picks and predictions
I have to be blunt and put this at the forefront: I wonder if Loyola Chicago made the best coaching hire two years ago. In consecutive years, the Ramblers have gone from a yearly candidate to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament to a first-round exit two years ago and a 10-21 season last year. Its first season in the A-10 was concerning, as it finished last in the conference and had more talent than that.
There were always going to be growing pains, and a step back this much is concerning.
"No matter what, [Loyola Chicago basketball fans are] going to have the team's back," Valentine said after the season ended last year. "It's totally fair to demand a higher standard. That's what we're working for. I'm on the same page with all the Rambler fans who want better."
That higher standard that Valentine is chasing is what Florida Atlantic has now achieved. The Owls have made back-to-back postseasons for the first time in a long time, and Head Coach Dusty May has posted winning seasons in four of his five years with the program. It's doubtful this team will repeat its Final Four trip, but with May at the helm and a team that returns mostly everybody, it's a dangerous group. There will be some great chances to fade Florida Atlantic this season, but with such a coaching advantage here, this isn't the spot. My best bet is laying 6.5 points with FAU.
Loyola has revamped its roster with a host of new faces, including Trey Lewis and Miles Rubin. Lewis redshirted a season, and Rubin is a true freshman. Both will be thrust into roles where they are asked to score right away. I'd expect the edition of Lewis to mean that primary Ramblers offensive sets this season will be run through him in the post. This may help the Ramblers this season, but I wonder if a matchup with 7-foot-1 Vladislav Goldin is how you want to start things with this offense.
The offensive side of the ball is where May's bunch shines. Like most modern college basketball offenses, it employs a four-out concept. Unlike most offenses, it uses four players on the floor at once that you'd all conceivably label as guards, which allows it to pinpoint particular mismatches each time down the court. The one singular mismatch in this game is what FAU can do beyond the arc, and I wonder if Valentine has made much of an adjustment to fix it. The Owls graded out as excellent last season on spot-up sets per Synergy. In addition, they shot 39% from behind the arc with the likes of Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin. This is the defensive area Loyola struggled the most with, as it ranked in the 250s.
Relying on threes to go down as a college basketball handicap can be a fool's errand. However, unlike its opponent, this Florida Atlantic team has shown that it can win in multiple ways and will have a notable coaching advantage. Lay the points this evening.
My best bet: Florida Atlantic -6.5 (-110 at FanDuel)
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago same-game parlay
While I would love to exploit the of the Ramblers' 3-point defending deficiencies with the player props here, unfortunately, none were available.
Instead, I'm keeping this as simple as it gets. I'm leaning fully into the narrative that FAU is a significantly more talented, coached, and prepared team that should dominate from start to finish.
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Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago spread and Over/Under analysis
Our best bet is Florida Atlantic tonight.
We're laying the points, with the coaching advantage it has being the chief reason why. In addition to that, the Owls are a much more experienced team that is accustomed to playing to a system. In every facet, FAU should be the more prepared team tonight, and that's something that can't be discounted when opening the season.
I have no real feel for the total in this matchup, as it nearly mirrors my projected total. The Florida Atlantic offense is efficient and can score on almost anyone, so I'd expect it to do that. It's a matter of what the Ramblers can do as they bring in new faces and face a stern defensive test. With that in mind, it’s worth noting what we've seen this season in a very small sample size.
The overhauled block/charge rules have likely had an early season effect and created more scoring. As Ken Pomeroy noted, opening night produced the second-highest offensive rating in the modern era. In addition to that, the season has started with record-low turnover numbers. In a vacuum, we should lean to Overs early in the season until books adjust. This feat is difficult for a bettor like me who naturally has an implicit Under bias.
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago betting trend to know
Florida Atlantic has hit the 1H moneyline in 30 of its last 36 games. Find more college basketball betting trends for Florida Atlantic vs. Loyola Chicago.
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago game info
|Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
|Wednesday, November 8, 2023
|7:00 p.m. ET
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Chicago key injuries
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