On the heels of their stunning Final Four run, the Florida Atlantic Owls come into the 2023-24 season with huge expectations. On top of that, they’re transitioning to a new – and slightly improved — conference. Are they talented enough to cash in?
The 10th-ranked Owls tip off the season Wednesday (7 p.m. ET) against Loyola Chicago in the Barstool Sports Invitational. FAU is a 6.5-point favorite (-110) and -280 on the moneyline, while Loyola is +6.5 (-110) on the spread and +230 outright. The projected total is 142.5 (-110 Over, -110 Under).
Read on as we break down both teams and assess the Florida Atlantic vs Loyola spread in our college basketball game preview.
Location: WinTrust Arena; Chicago
Streaming: Barstool Sports
Florida Atlantic vs Loyola Betting Trends
The Loyola Chicago Ramblers were among the least profitable teams for bettors last season, going 9-22 against the spread. The Ramblers’ cover rate was just 29%. Meanwhile, the Florida Atlantic Owls were 23-11 record ATS. The projected total went Over in 19 of the Owls’ games. That’s important to remember when assessing the Florida Atlantic vs Loyola spread.
Expectations Far Greater for FAU
The Florida Atlantic Owls went on a historic Cinderella run last March, making their first Final Four appearance in program history. A No. 9 seed, the Owls defeated No. 3 Kansas State 79-76 before falling 72-71 to No. 5 San Diego State in the national semifinals.
Following the season, FAU left Conference USA for the American Athletic Conference.
Expectations are now considerably higher. All five starters are back from a team that won 35 games. So, too, is head coach Dusty May, who declined overtures to jump to a more established program. The Owls — No. 10 in the AP Top 25 NCAAB rankings — are a +110 favorite to win the AAC and +1000 to return to the Final Four, this after they began last season with 130/1 odds to win the national championship.
Headlining the Owls’ roster is junior guard Johnell Davis, who averaged 13.8 points (15.4 in the NCAA Tournament) and 5.4 rebounds. Davis is one of three double-digit scorers returning, along with Alijah Martin and Vladislav Goldin.
FAU’s NCAA title odds are now +4000. While that may seem a bit steep given the Owls’ AP ranking, the AAC hasn’t produced a national champion since UConn in 2014. Keep that in mind when analyzing the college basketball odds.
Steep Fall for Loyola
The Loyola Chicago Ramblers are coming off a 10-21 finish, their first losing season since 2015-16. It was an unusually rough introduction to the Atlantic 10 Conference, where they went 4-14 in league play.
Accordingly, the Ramblers — Final Four darlings in 2017-18 — missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons. They closed the season 1-5 over their final six games.
For what it’s worth, oddsmakers are slightly optimistic about the chances of a better finish this year. Loyola is +900 to win the A-10, the fifth-best NCAAB odds in the conference, and one of six schools at 10/1 or better. The Ramblers return leading scorer Philip Alston (14.6 PPG) and Braden Norris, who was ninth in the country in average minutes (37.3).
That continuity should bode well for the Ramblers. But they still need to play considerably better to return to the Big Dance. Not a single team from the A-10 cracked the AP preseason rankings, so at the very least, the conference is up for grabs.
The Ramblers haven’t posted back-to-back losing seasons since 2013 and 2014, which coincided with their transition to the Missouri Valley Conference.
Handicapping the Game
FAU flourished in an underdog role last March, knocking off three higher seeds during its improbable Final Four run. But the tables have since turned.
No longer is FAU the little engine that could. The Owls are now a preseason top-10 team, saddled with big expectations of winning in March. It’s a lot to manage, but much of the roster is intact. Davis and Martin, in particular, are talented enough to shoulder a heavy load.
While Loyola should be better, it’s hard to bet against FAU in this spot. Back the Owls — 6.5-point favorites on the Florida Atlantic vs Loyola spread– to start fast.