By Lamar Battle
Who would have thunk it? Loyola Chicago’s Men’s basketball team would take the nation by storm.
The Ramblers, who last won an NCAA title 55 years ago Surprised everybody by making it all the way to the NCAA’s Final Four. The 11th seed made the big dance by winning their conference (The Missouri Valley). The proverbial little sister of the poor did it by playing team ball on offense and defense.
To make it Loyola had to beat Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State but unfortunately the Ramblers fell to the University of Michigan in the NCAA’s coveted Final Four.
How Did Loyola do it?
Well to start small schools always have a chance to make the big dance if they accomplish just one thing, Win their conference. The Ramblers play in the Missouri Valley Conference who with the departure of Wichita State is winnable.
Having a good coach doesn’t hurt either. Loyola’s Porter Moser is a coach given the time by the University to develop his type of players and program. A writer asked him how would he deal with big ego type players? The coach’s response was basically they don’t recruit those players. The reporter followed up with how about if one of your existing players became that way? The coach then added that the culture of the team would take care of that.
Those points are key in evaluating a program that understands the impact of having self sacrificing and coach-able kids who also just happen to hail from winning high school programs. The Ramblers played the type of switching rotating defense that requires both conditioning and genuine commitment to your teammates.
Fortunately for the Ramblers that same commitment works on offense too as they passed up good shots for better ones as and anyone who knows anything about basketball will attest defenders hate chasing offensive teams through a series of five to six passes. (normally how long it takes to break a defense down).
Most good things do occasionally come to an end and that axiom held true as the Michigan Wolverines ( who had better players and coaching) ended the Ramblers Cinderella season.
What does this mean for Chicago?
The entire city got behind Loyola and if the University can find the cash to keep it’s coach then this could be the start of a fruitful relationship.
Other states have raided Chicago’s top basketball talent for years but maybe just maybe Loyola’s success will motivate Chicago area kids to stay home.
One thing is for sure, U of I and Depaul sure could use some of them.