VALPARAISO CRUSADERS (19-9)
at LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS (17-10)
ESPN BracketBuster Game
Tip-off: Friday, 9:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Loyola Marymount -5, Total, 138
While each of these teams enter this game having won five of their past six, itís Loyola Marymount thatís done it against quality competition: The Lions followed up a road loss on Saturday at Gonzaga with an impressive 15-point upset win at 16th-ranked Saint Maryís in a game in which they were a 14-point underdog. The pick here, however, is underdog VALPARAISO, which is 7-0 ATS as a road underdog of 3.5 to 6 points over the past three seasons. Over that same span, Loyola Marymount is 1-9 ATS in home games where the total is 135 to 139.5.
This three-star FoxSheets trend also likes Valpo.
Play Against - A home team (LOYOLA-MARYMOUNT) - in non-conference games, off a road win against a conference rival. (69-28 over the last 5 seasons.) (71.1%, +38.2 units. Rating = 3*).
This marks the first all-time meeting between these two schools. Valparaiso has previously played five current West Coast Conference teams a total of seven times and owns a 5-2 record against league members. The most recent meeting between Valpo and a WCC squad came on Nov. 21, 2008, when the Crusaders lost to San Diego, 73-66, on a neutral court.
Over the past five games, Valpo is shooting a scorching 47.1 percent (48-of-102) from beyond the three-point arc. The Crusaders started the season shooting under 30 percent from long range over the seasonís first 10 games, but since is hitting at a 38.4% clip from behind the line. Meanwhile, the team is also extremely proficient from inside the arc, knocking down 55.4% of its tries from two-point range, which is tied for second nationally. Of Valpoís seven rotation players who have been playing the entire season, all seven are hitting at least half of their two-point attempts. The player whoís been standing out the most recently is junior Richie Edwards, who started his hot stretch with back-to-back, 16-point efforts two weekends ago against Detroit and Wright State. Last Thursday against Cleveland State, Edwards posted a 20-point night, his best effort of the season against a Division I opponent, and then scored 19 points in his first career start at Youngstown State. Last time out, the junior went 5-of-7 from the field and 8-of-9 from the foul line for a team-best 19 points against Illinois-Chicago.
Loyola Marymountís win over Saint Maryís was its third victory in five tries this season against a ranked opponent, and it gave the Lions their most wins in West Coast Conference play since the Elite Eight team in 1989-90, which went 13-1. LMU entered this week ranked 17th nationally in three-point field goal defense and are now holding opponents to 28.8 percent shooting from long range after limiting Saint Mary's to 21.4 percent. The Lions average nearly 71 points per game, led by 16.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG from senior Drew Viney. Sophomore Anthony Ireland adds 15.4 PPG as well, as LMU boasts four players averaging in double figures on the season. The Lions also lead the WCC and rank 45th nationally in free throw percentage, hitting 73.0 percent. Their top six scorers all hit better than 73 percent, including LaRon Armstead's 85.5 percent, which leads the conference and ranks 42nd nationally.