Busting Brackets

Missouri Valley Basketball: Bradley and Loyola Rivalry Rekindled

Bradley v Wisconsin
Bradley v Wisconsin / John Fisher/GettyImages

Loyola Chicago made basketball history while it was a part of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Ramblers went to an NCAA Tournament Final Four and another Sweet Sixteen. Then Sister Jean and the Ramblers left for the Atlantic Ten. 

 LUC returns to Valley country to face the MVC's Bradley Braves in National Invitation Tournament play.

The two Illinois-based universities have met 70 times with Bradley winning 37 of the contests, but they have not met since the Ramblers left for the A-Ten. The Braves lost fourteen of 19 games between the two teams when they both toiled in the Valley. LUC defeated the Braves four of the five times they played at Arch Madness. 

This is Bradley’s second straight NIT appearance and the Braves have won four NIT championships, but this game is more backyard brawl than history and nostalgia. The last time they played at Bradley’s Carver Arena, LUC coach Drew Valentine said he wouldn’t miss coming back to Peoria. He didn’t like the heckling of the Carver crowd. 

When asked about renewing the rivalry, Bradley head coach maintained the teams had enjoyed some good battles and he still has a close friendship with former Rambler coach Porter Moser. 

Each of these coaches are fiery and competitive and their teams play with passion, wanting to assert their will on the other team. 

Bradley (22-11) hosts Loyola Chicago (23-9) at 6:00 pm on ESPN+

These teams will defend with passion. Bradley is 39th nationally in defensive field goal percentage and 47th in scoring defense. The Ramblers are twelfth in defensive field goal percentage and sixteenth in blocking shots. 

But they can score. While Loyola is 19th nationally in assists, Bradley is 21st in three-point percentage. 

Crafty Loyola guard Braden Norris is the face of the last great run made by LUC and he and running mate Des Watson (12.9 ppg) will have their hands full with the Bradley backcourt of Connor Hickman and Duke Deen. The Brave frontcourt is long and athletic as Malevy Leons and Darius Hannah both stand 6’9 and are as active as defensive big men as there is in the nation. 

Both players accumulated at least forty blocks, steals and assists while scoring in double digits and grabbing at least six rebounds per game. They’ll have stiff test tangling with Philip Alston and freshman Rubin Miles. Alston and Miles combined to block 128 shots this season. 

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This may be the most intense and athletic game of the National Invitation Tournament.