For the first time since 1963 the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (32-5) will be playing for a spot in college basketball's national title game, which they won 60-58 that year over the two-time defending champion Cincinnati Bearcats in overtime despite trailing by 15 points.
After winning the South Region last weekend, the 11th-seeded Ramblers will meet the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines (32-7) out of the West in the first national semifinal of the Final Four this Saturday as 5-point underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Loyola is undoubtedly the darling of this year's NCAA Tournament, a true small school Cinderella going up against three other blue blood programs in the Final Four, including Michigan. The Ramblers won their first three games of the Big Dance by a combined four points before routing the ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats 78-62 in the South Regional Final as 1.5-point underdogs, covering the spread for the sixth time in a row.
The Ramblers have won 14 straight overall, and one more victory would make them the first double-digit seed in NCAA history to play in the national championship game.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines have put together a 13-game winning streak capped by their second run to the Final Four in six years - going 10-3 against the spread during that stretch - according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database. Michigan head coach John Beilein has done another outstanding job with his players, getting them to perform at their best and peak at the perfect time while winning the Big Ten Tournament.
The Wolverines have carried that over to the NCAA Tournament and been fortunate to get a favorable matchup for the third consecutive round since edging the sixth-seeded Houston Cougars 64-63 on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Michigan, second at +250 on the updated odds to win the NCAA Tournament, has beaten the seventh-seeded Texas A&M Aggies 99-72 and ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles 58-54 in its last two games, going 1-1 ATS and finding a way to win two very different ways to advance. The team is 7-0 SU and 5-2 ATS in its last seven games as a favorite.
Beilein's defense continues to be the difference though and will likely be the main factor in this matchup with Loyola. The Ramblers have been used to playing low-scoring, competitive games, but they have gone a disappointing 0-7 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven versus Big Ten opponents (none this season).
However, the Ramblers are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games as underdogs, winning seven of them outright, including a 65-59 upset of the Florida Gators, who closed as 16.5-point home favorites back on December 6.