Loyola-Chicago Ramblers vs. Dayton Flyers Pick & Prediction MARCH 1st 2024

Competing for an Atlantic 10 regular-season title and strengthening its chances for an NCAA Tournament invitation boils down to balance for No. 21 Dayton.

Entering Friday night’s pivotal visit to Loyola Chicago, the Flyers certainly are clicking in that regard.

Dayton (22-5, 12-3) had six scorers in double figures during Tuesday’s 80-66 home victory against Davidson, with reserve Koby Brea’s 17-point effort leading the way.

Flyers coach Anthony Grant called the team’s early ball movement “as good as we’ve had in quite some time,” adding that placing a half-dozen players in double figures is “indicative of what this team is capable of.”

Dayton moved into a second-place tie with the Ramblers (20-8, 12-3) in the conference standings. Loyola’s season-best, seven-game winning streak ended with Tuesday’s 79-64 loss at St. Bonaventure.

Shooting struggles plagued the Ramblers, whose 38.2 percent effort from the floor included a 10-for-31 showing from 3-point range. Loyola also shot just 12-for-21 (57.1 percent) from the free-throw line.

Leading scorer Philip Alston (12.8 ppg) had 12 points and Braden Norris added 11 for Loyola Chicago.

“I thought we had good intentions (Tuesday),” Ramblers coach Drew Valentine said. “(Tuesday) was similar to our losses earlier this year. Just a lack of competitive discipline that put us in a position where we were scratching and clawing from behind. A bunch of guys didn’t have it (Tuesday), and that’s all right. We’re not going to have it every night and not play perfect every night.”

Loyola’s loss at St. Bonaventure put the Ramblers behind league-leading Richmond, which recorded a 58-56 victory on Jan. 9 in the programs’ only meeting this season.

The Ramblers responded by winning 10 of their next 11 before the setback against the Bonnies. Loyola has embarked on a turnaround from last season’s 4-14 finish in its first A-10 campaign, a journey that started with Valentine challenging the team in the offseason.

“With Drew, I could hear in his voice that he was ready for a switch and he was ready to turn this team into something different,” the Ramblers’ Desmond Watson said.

Loyola must be mindful of Dayton’s potential from beyond the arc. The Flyers went 12-for-28 from deep against Davidson.

Brea, who shot 5-for-9 from deep in the that game, modestly holds the top 3-point-shooting percentage in the nation, at 49.06 percent.

“I hear about it, but I try not to pay too much attention,” Brea said of the statistic. “I just try to stay level-headed and focused on what the team needs from me.”

As Grant sees it, that duty begins with keeping an even keel and staying focused on balance against the Ramblers.

“They’re a really good team,” Grant said. “They’ve had a great year, and it’ll be a great challenge for us to be able to go on the road in that environment and try to get a win. It’s a quick turnaround. I know our guys are excited to play.”

–Field Level Media

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