By Nancy Armour |
They’re on a mission from God.
Sorry, Loyola being a Jesuit school from Chicago and the team’s most famous member being a 98-year-old nun, I couldn’t resist the Blues Brothers reference. Be assured, however, the Ramblers are no joke.
This is a team that upset Florida in Gainesville in December, and rolls into the Final Four on a 14-game winning streak. Its four NCAA tournament victories were keyed by four different players, including Ben Richardson going off for 23 in the Elite Eight after being oh-fer in the opener.
It is the stingiest of the four teams left, holding opponents to 62.4 points a game and has outrebounded all but Miami (Fla.) in the NCAA tournament.
In other words, don’t let the No. 11 seed in front of its name fool you. Loyola is every bit as deserving of its seat on college basketball’s biggest stage as the three powerhouse programs up there.
“We have felt all along that we have a ton of weapons,” Ramblers coach Porter Moser said. “We recruited to this. We can space you, we can drive you, we can shoot it. … It’s not trying to find one guy, it’s who’s the open guy, keep sharing it, moving it.
“It’s more to the unselfishness and versatility rather than one guy.”
An 11th seed is the lowest to make the Final Four, and Loyola is the fourth to do it. None of the others — LSU, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth — made it to the title game. It’s not a surprise, really, given the sheer size of the domed stadiums and all the hype surrounding the Final Four.
It’s a lot for any team to take in, let alone one that hadn’t even been to the NCAA tournament in 33 years.
But Moser said his team is ready.
“This was part of the plan when we recruited them. `Hey, let’s change the direction of the program,’” Moser said. “So I wasn’t going to stop now and not let them enjoy the journey. And the reason why I can do that is because they’ve been mature and locked in.”
Turns out they’re on a mission after all.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.