TV, Times, and Lines:
Date: Saturday, December 4
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST
Spread: Loyola-Chicago -3.5
Total: O/U 144.5
On Saturday afternoon, the DePaul Blue Demons host the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers in what has come to be known as the Red Line Rivalry. This will be the 57th meeting between the two teams in which DePaul has won 38 of them. Despite the historic success for DePaul, Loyola-Chicago was the last one to come out on top, beating the Blue Demons 69-61 back in December of 2012.
DePaul is riding a 6 game win streak to start the season and is coming into this game off of their largest win of the season against Eastern Michigan. The Blue Demons look to improve to 7-0 for only the seventh time since the 1979-1980 season where they started 25-0. Loyola-Chicago also has 6 wins but has suffered 2 losses at the hands of what can be considered as Top 4 teams in their respective high-major conferences.
Although 1st-year head coach Tony Stubblefield has preached defense and rebounding for his Blue Demons, their number one success this season has been scoring. DePaul is currently 5th in the country with a whopping 88.5 points per game. Not only are they scoring a ton, but they are also doing it at a very efficient rate. The Blue Demons are making 50.3% of their shots which ranks 15th in the nation.
On the other side, 1st-year head coach Drew Valentine has coached this Loyola-Chicago team to a high success with their 3 and D. The Ramblers are shooting the three-ball at a ridiculous 42.3% rate which ranks 6th in the nation. This shooting will keep Loyola-Chicago in every game no matter what the deficit may be. Accompanied by the elite three-point shooting, is their very solid defense. The Ramblers have had a history of great defense, ranking 1st in the country in opponent points per game last year only giving up 56.1. This year they are around that total and are giving up 62.6 points per game.
Players to Watch:
Javon Freeman-Liberty (DePaul): JFL has caught national attention this past week after continuing his impressive start to the season. The 6’4” guard is currently 4th in the entire country in scoring, in which he is averaging 23.5 points per game. In each of his first 6 games, Freeman-Liberty has at least scored 19 points. On top of his ridiculous scoring, the Chicago native is the only player under 6’5” that is top 50 in rebounding. The senior guard is averaging 9.2 rebounds per game. In the past, JFL has struggled when going up against his former high school teammate Lucas Williamson, so we will see if the leaps that Freeman-Liberty has made in his senior season will translate to this game against his Whitney Young teammate.
Brandon Johnson (DePaul): While Loyola-Chicago has a very solid defense, most of it comes around the perimeter. The Ramblers rank 265th in the country in blocking with only 2.5 per game. The number one guy to exploit one of Loyola-Chicago’s very few weaknesses is senior Minnesota transfer Brandon Johnson. The 6’8” forward ranks 3rd in scoring for the Blue Demons and has put up double digits in 5 out of DePaul’s 6 games. Johnson is a monster in the paint and should be able to take advantage of a seemingly weaker interior defense.
Lucas Williamson (Loyola-Chicago): The headline of this game will be two Chicago high school teammates facing off in their 4th and likely final collegiate game against one another. Those two teammates are Lucas Williamson and Javon Freeman-Liberty. Williamson has limited one of the nation’s top scorers to only 9.7 points per game in their first three meetings. This defense-offense matchup is definitely the most intriguing in today’s game. Will Williamson get the better of Freeman-Liberty for the 4th straight time, or will JFL prevail?
The name of the game for the Blue Demons will be to hold the Ramblers to below 70 points. Loyola-Chicago is 6-0 when scoring more than 70 and 0-2 when scoring less than 70. Coach Stubblefield has continuously made defense the focus for the Blue Demons and I believe that message will come through today. I believe that this game will be extremely close all the way through, similar to DePaul’s game against Rutgers. With both teams’ focuses being on defense, I think that this game will be below the 144.5 point total and the Blue Demons will hold Loyola-Chicago to less than 70 points. My prediction is that DePaul will win this game outright and improve to 7-0.