Category Archives: Stories

Men’s Volleyball Begins Jan. 3

High Hopes for Loyola’s 2024 Volleyballers

Men’s Volleyball kicks off Wed., Jan 3, when Loyola faces last year’s National Runner-Up Hawaii, in the 10,000-seat Stan Sheriff Center Honolulu.  If you haven’t seen Hawaii Men’s Volleyball home games, you’re in for a treat—it’s going to be packed, and there will be sights and scenes and local traditions that make Hawaii men’s volleyball a distinctive experience.  The Ramblers will play two matches, Wednesday and Friday, and you can watch both matches on ESPN +.

Loyola, picked to finish second in the 2024 MIVA preseason poll, is coming off a 2023 season that exceeded expectations.  First-year Head Coach John Hawks was named MIVA Coach of the Year as the Ramblers went 21-7 and claimed a share of the MIVA regular season title.  As a 2 seed in the MIVA Tournament, the Ramblers dropped their first-round match against #7 Lindenwood, ending the season with a three-match losing streak.

Ohio State is picked as the favorite in the MIVA (with all the first-place votes) ahead of Loyola, Ball State, and Lewis.  IPFW was picked fifth, followed by Lindenwood, McKendree, and Quincy.  Queens University of Charlotte, N.C. joins the MIVA this season as the 9th team in the conference, and were picked to come in last in their first season.

Loyola’s Parker Van Buren and Nicodemus Meyer, two talented juniors, were picked for the all-MIVA first team. Ohio State had four members on the all-conference team, including Jacob Pasteur, the Preseason Player of the Year.

Loyola’s schedule is really challenging this season, beginning with the trip to Hawaii for the televised matches happening at Midnight Chicago time on Wednesday, and again at Midnight on Friday.  Coming back to the mainland, the Ramblers stop off in Northern California for matches with Stanford at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, and again at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 8. 

The home opener happens on Thursday, Jan. 11 with BYU in a match televised on NBC Sports Chicago Plus.  Two days later, defending National Champion UCLA visits Gentile Arena on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.  MIVA Conference play begins Feb. 1 in Muncie, Ind.

Diving Into Stats!

There’s almost a week before Loyola’s next game at South Florida on Saturday, Dec. 16.  So maybe it’s a good time to go diving into some statistics of note.

Box Plus/Minus Fun!

Our best player according to the plus/minus?  Jayden Dawson.  I’m only counting players who have logged 100+ minutes, but Dawson is the breakout leader with a 4.6 on offense and a 3.9 on defense to rack up a +8.4.  That’s astounding.

Coming in second on the combined offensive/defensive plus/minus is Dame Adelekun, with a 5.0 combined score (2.9 offense, 2.1 defense).  The top defensive player is Miles Rubin, who has a team-leading 4.6 on defense.  Rubin is still below zero on offense, but that’s where his biggest upside lives.

Here’s where you can find the full stats for all players:

Simple Rating System

How does this year’s team compare so far?  Last year I wrote a five-part series on the best teams in Loyola history, which relied quite a bit on the SRS (Simple Rating System) to place the rankings.  It’s a rating system that relies on point differential and strength of schedule, which is applied across college basketball from 1949-50 to present.

Last year’s Loyola team, our inaugural run in the A-10, was pretty bad historically, finishing at 54th among the 74 years of Loyola men’s basketball teams evaluated with the SRS.  This years team?  So far, the 2023-24 Ramblers are 16th best over the past 75 years evaluated with the SRS.  The relatively high ranking is due in large part to a Strength of Schedule ranking that’s 14th best in the past 75 years of Loyola basketball, and higher by far (so far at least) than any season in the MVC.

KenPom MVPs

KenPom automatically assigns MVP status to a player for each game, according to the metrics evaluated for their ranking system (Offensive/Defensive efficiency, etc.)  A player doesn’t have to be on the winning team to receive the MVP—best player according to their number gets the nod, win or lose.  So here’s the MVPs for Loyola’s 10 games thus far:

Florida Atlantic:  Vlad Goldin, FAU

Eastern Illinois:  Des Watson, Loyola

Illinois Chicago:  Isaiah Rivera, UIC

New Orleans:  Jordan Johnson, UNO

Creighton:  Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton

Boston College:  Braden Norris, Loyola

Chicago State:  Jalen Quinn, Loyola

Harvard:  Philip Alston, Loyola

Tulsa:  Jayden Dawson, Loyola

Goshen:  Philip Alston, Loyola

All Hail, Philly College Hoops!

Probably most college basketball fans know that Philadelphia has a very competitive yearly tournament between their local college teams—in historic and on-campus venues—that is legendary in its ability to drive passion about college basketball.  The newspapers, radio and TV stations, and other media cover it in depth. 

And Philly has great college teams—Villanova in the Big East, La Salle and St. Joseph’s in the A-10, Penn in the Ivy, Temple in the American, and Drexel in the Colonial.  It used to be called the Big 5, but now it’s the Big 6.

This year, the thing was fricking brilliant—insanely glorious, crazy, competitive, heroic.

If only media outlets, large local companies, the city government, and other influencers got together the way they do in Philly to support local sports, local colleges, and create a festive atmosphere around sports and local institutions…. I’ve been advocating for a similar tournament in Chicago.  They should also have one in NYC, DC, Boston, LA, and SF. 

St. Joseph’s out of the A-10 won the title with a 74-65 win over Temple.

Brilliant. Congrats, Philly. You do it better than anyone else.