Loyola and Kansas State are playing in the most unlikely Elite Eight in history when they face on Saturday night. A No. 9 seed has never played a No. 11 seed in the men's NCAA tournament.
The No. 11 seed Ramblers have generated national excitement as the double-digit seed one game away from the Final Four. But Loyola still has to win a tough matchup against one of the best defensive teams in the country in Bruce Weber's ballclub.
Tempo is still one of the major factors for Loyola playing in its ultimate comfort zone. Thankfully for the Ramblers, No. 9 seed Kansas State is an ideal tempo matchup. Both teams like to play very slow.
The new key for Loyola in the Elite Eight will come down to perimeter shooting. As a team this season, the Ramblers are just under 40 percent from distance. The long ball has been a big part of the team's unlikely tournament run through three games as well. With multiple floor spacers, Loyola has a lot of weapons on the perimeter.
Kansas State is going to seriously challenge the Ramblers on every shot from three-point range. The Wildcats are in the Elite Eight in-part because of their ability to defend teams off of the three-point line.
So far in the 2018 NCAA tournament, Kansas State has held opponents to 26 percent shooting (18-for-68) from three-point range. Kentucky was known as a shaky perimeter-shooting team this season. UMBC (38 percent) and Creighton (37 percent) were both respected groups who could space the floor at multiple spots. The Wildcats made all three teams shoot very poorly from the perimeter as Kansas State was able to win despite not playing its best on offense.
That means Loyola will have to work to generate open looks from three. And when the Ramblers get clean looks from the perimeter, they also need to knock them down to advance to San Antonio.
The magical run for Loyola has already made it to this point. And it could continue if the Ramblers can knock down enough threes to put the pressure on Kansas State.