Ramblermania 2018-19 MVC Preview

Loyola’s run to the 2018 Final Four erased a lot of fears that the MVC was headed for 3rd Class status after the departure of Wichita State. Already, the performance of the Ramblers last year (along with some nice upsets by Indiana State and Illinois State, solid performances by Bradley, and in-league competitiveness by Southern Illinois) has elevated the view of the conference in the eyes of a lot of pre-season prognosticators.

The MVC is an extremely competitive league that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Play is tough, scouting and coaching is high level. The fan bases are passionate and large. And now there’s a little more attention from larger media markets that are beginning to understand the competitive culture of the league.

There’s no sleeping in the MVC. That’s why, despite Loyola returning three starters from their Final Four team, many preseason previews are picking Illinois State or Southern Illinois to surge to the forefront of the league. Here’s how Ramblermania sees the MVC for 2018-19:

1. Loyola

Yes, I’m picking Loyola this year. Last year I went with everybody’s favorite Missouri State because I thought they had the players, because Loyola hadn’t proven they could get over the hump in the MVC, and (selfishly, as a fan) I didn’t want the front-runner target on Loyola.

This year, Loyola is going to be the biggest game on the schedule of every opponent except Nevada, Maryland, and Boston College. Yes, Loyola. Big game. Mark that on your calendar. Fill up the arena fans, we’re playing Loyola!

2. Illinois State Continue reading

Loyola Men’s Basketball 2018-19 Preview

Loyola’s 2017-18 men’s basketball season was something that Loyola’s small but die-hard fan base will never forget. Ramblermaniacs knew that the Ramblers would be very good. But following the team through so many bad years, false starts, and plunging hopes had buffered fans to resist bubbly optimism. It wasn’t too much of a surprise to win the MVC somewhat convincingly, but the run deep into a tournament Loyola hadn’t seen in 33 years was a stunner. At least it was for me.

How do the Ramblers follow an unbelievable storybook season? Loyola has had the benefit of being in the same conference to watch what happens to two different Final Four teams the year after they made an amazing run in the NCAA Tournament. Continue reading

The Dark Years: The Nauseous Nineties (1990-1996)

In the late 1980s, Loyola men’s basketball was faltering in its attempt to compete with DePaul and Illinois. The Ramblers’ 1985 Sweet 16 run had just about lost all its luster by 1988, when Loyola was playing in an empty livestock arena on the South Side. A shared MCC regular season title in 1987 was followed by a rebuilding year, and then a change in the leadership in the Department of Athletics. But a huge change in the philosophy of the department of athletics was about to kick in, with critical implications for Loyola men’s basketball in the 1990s.

The Dark Years

Chuck Schwarz was hired as Athletic Director in 1988, and arrived with a focus on raising academic standards in the athletic department. Several key Loyola men’s basketball players– who were eligible to play based on NCAA standards– were ruled ineligible because they failed to meet Loyola’s standards. Kenny Miller and Tim Bankston were ruled ineligible before the 1988-89 season, and Gerald Hayward (averaging 22.4 points per game) and Antowne Johnson (19.2 ppg, 12.8 rpg) were ruled ineligible before the spring semester. Coach Gene Sullivan resigned (er, really he was fired) after a 11-17 season in March 1989.

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