For every college basketball game for each of the five teams this site covers we'll have a preview up in case people want to talk about the game as it happens. Tonight those games finally start as Loyola-Chicago takes on Robert Morris in an exhibition contest at the Gentile Center at 7 p.m. CT. If you can't make it to Rogers Park you can listen to the game through the Eagles' site.
What should fans be looking for tonight? Here are three keys to the contest.
#1. Efficient shot selection. Loyola needs to score, the problem is that four of the Ramblers' top five scorers from a year ago have graduated. Those player accounted for almost 63 percent of Loyola's total points last season. The problem with those players though was their shot selection. Loyola consistently took contested shots last season. In order to be competitive the Ramblers have to shoot better than the 45.0 effective field goal percentage that they put up last season. That ranked a dismal 309th in the country. Tonight it's not just about taking shots, it's about taking good shots.
#2. Strong on the inside. Robert Morris isn't a particularly large team. The Eagles want to get into an up-and-down game and that's fine because it's probably what Loyola is best suited for as well. But a fast game doesn't mean ignoring fundamentals like rebounding. Tonight is Andy Polka's first chance to show he's fully recovered and ready to bang in the post all season. Loyola allowed opponents to grab 36.2 percent of their missed shots last season. That was the 291st ranked defensive rebounding effort. Extra possessions never end well. The Ramblers need to focus on limiting them starting with tonight's game. It's not just Polka; players like sophomores Walt Gibler and John Benkoske need to be on the glass as well.
#3. Getting to know each other. This goes along well with points #1. With nine players in their first or second season with the Ramblers it's going to take some time for Loyola to gel as a team. Practices were the first step, but now comes real game action. How will Ben Averkamp, Gabe Kindred, Shaun Adams and the rest of the freshman class blend in with the current Ramblers? Jordan Hicks is the only Rambler who can generate his own shot with any regularity, and he is out of tonight's game with an Achilles injury, so teamwork will be the key. Watch the assist totals tonight.
It would be nice to see Loyola get off to a good start tonight. The past two seasons Loyola has gone 5-7 in November contests, and while the game against Robert Morris doesn't count in the standings, a win would go a long way towards giving a young team much needed confidence.