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Loyola Marymount is a threat to bubble teams nation wide


Mike Miller

Loyola Marymount is not going to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. If you lose to Columbia at home and lose by 24 at Morgan State, you basically sign away any right you have to even have your named mentioned in bubble discussions.

But that doesn’t mean the Lions have no shot to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s the beauty of conference tournaments. All it takes is getting hot at the right time, and any team in the country has a chance to go dancing.

And right now, LMU should strike fear into the hearts of bubble teams across the country, because this team is talented enough to make a run through the WCC Tournament and earn the league’s automatic bid. In a league where there is at least one team that is a lock to go dancing, that’s a big deal.

Look at it like this: heading into Friday night, the Lions have wins over UCLA, St. Louis, BYU and St. Mary’s. After a 61-53 win over Valpo in their BracketBuster’s game on Friday, they can now count a win over the Horizon League leader in that equation. Those are five quality wins, enough to tell you that LMU is good enough to beat anyone they will face in the WCC Tournament.

What’s scarier is that the Lions are finally healthy -- Drew Viney and Ashley Hamilton both missed extended periods of time early in the season -- and playing their best basketball of the season. They’ve won six of their last seven games and eight of their last ten. In those last ten games, they’ve won at BYU, at St. Mary’s and at home against Valpo. The two losses came at Gonzaga and at home against the Gaels.

Point guard Anthony Ireland is one of the nation’s hidden gems. Drew Viney is a talented combo-forward capable of going for 25 on any given night. Throw in a better-than-you-think supporting cast, and the Lions have the horses to make a run next month.

Teams out of the at-large mix that are capable of winning the automatic bid in a conference with at least one tournament lock are known as bid thieves, and there may not be a more compelling potential this season than the Lions.

Bubblers, beware.