The Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago came into this tournament with slim hopes of making it past the round of 64. Now, they’re one win away from making it to the final championship game. How you may ask, has an 11-seed team made it this far? Many will answer: ‘because of lucky three-pointers’ or ‘clutch buzzer-beaters’. While not wrong, there is an abundance of other, more substantial reasons why Loyola-Chicago has made it so far and will continue to.
- To start off, it’s important to note that the Ramblers are not without their fair share of experienced players and coaches. While the none of the players have experienced an NCAA tournament yet, many of them (such as Ben Richardson) won state championships in high school, and know the drive it takes to get to those championship wins. In addition, their coach Porter Moser is in his 7th season and his 2nd 20-win season with the team. He’s a fierce leader who coaches with the same passion he played with as a kid.
- Top-20 defense. That alone speaks for itself. Come this Saturday, it’s been 59 days since the Ramblers have lost a game, holding 10 straight opponents under 70 points. Without top defense, that’s a difficult task to achieve. They operate with a belief in each other that helps them to establish a rhythmic and effective defense.
- In addition to tough defense, the Ramblers play with an unselfish, slow-paced, and successful offense. They hold the best shooting percentage of any Final Four team, not just over these past four games, but over the entire season, at 50.9%. They’ve made 60% of their shots inside the arc during this tournament. But statistics aside, they have stars Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer. Their offensive success doesn’t stop there. That’s what makes them so dangerous: they’ve got a profusion of scorers. This is due to the fact the team plays so unselfishly. No one player dominates the game. Within each of the four games in the tournament thus far, a different star has emerged. Their unique offensive floor-space game plan is sure to have all the teams in San Antonio bewildered at how to combat it. The Ramblers are just that good.
- Lastly, we can’t forget that they are a Cinderella team. And what comes along with that? Cinderella charm. Just like UMBC did in the first round, they’ve captured our hearts. Whether it’s been the ongoing support of Sister Jean, or the best friend duo of Richardson and Custer, or the incredible buzzer-beater by Donte Ingram or the hero of their sweet-16 win, Marques Townes, or the skilled freshman, Cameron Krutwig; each player has stolen everyone’s hearts.
The Ramblers of Chicago have the confidence, the skill, and the belief in each other to win it all. With a tournament full of upsets, why should we expect anything less from their Matchup tomorrow?
Loyola-Chicago will face-off against Michigan tomorrow at 6:09pm ET. Be sure to catch it!