Tag Archives: A-10

Ramblermania’s 2022-23 A-10 Preview

It’s Loyola’s first year in the A-10, and most people think the Ramblers have a chance to finish in the top third of the league.  I’ll admit, I was concerned about the adjustment to the new league and all that comes with it– new travel destinations, lack of familiarity with other teams, extra travel time, higher average athletic budgets in the new conference, and new/unfamiliar playing fields.

Loyola’s adjustment to the MVC took 1-3 years in my opinion.  But so far, the fall sports have shown that the gap between MVC and A-10 performance on the field isn’t nearly as large as the Horizon League-MVC gap.  Loyola finished 8th of 15 teams in women’s soccer (barely making the conference tournament), 4th in men’s soccer, first in both the men’s and women’s cross country championships, and currently rank first in women’s volleyball. 

The other thing that’s helpful for Loyola men’s basketball in the new conference is the sheer number of teams with new or first-year coaches.  Davidson, Fordham, LaSalle, UMass, Rhode Island, and George Washington all have new coaches with (for the most part) different philosophies; some of them will have teams that were put together out of a shell of a previous regime with newcomers added out of the transfer portal.

Here’s how I see the conference shaping up for the 2022-23 season:

1.  Dayton

The Flyers just barely missed the tournament last season with one of the youngest teams in college hoops.  Moreover, Dayton got noticably better as the season went on. Everybody’s back, except this year, all their freshmen have had an off season with college-level strength, endurance, nutrition, and performance training.  Add the fact that Dayton has one of the best home court advantages with the league’s highest attendance, and I give an edge to the Flyers to take the conference.

2.  Saint Louis

Travis Ford’s Billikens have the most collective experience, the best floor general (Yuri Collins, who led all of college basketball in assists last year), and one of the top players in the league in senior Javonte Perkins returning from an ACL injury.

3.  VCU

Two things I’ve always admired in a team are interchangeable, multi-skilled players, and playing hard defense.  The former allows teams to switch more easily on defense and creates mismatches on offense against most teams, and the latter ensures that the focus never lets up. That’s what the VCU program is, and they have another great crop of players to carry it out this season.

VCU is likely to play a three-forward, two guard lineup with the forwards between 6’9″and 6’7″, a shooting guard at 6’4″, and a point guard at 6’1″. They recruit for length and quickness, and they have a pretty clear game plan, so the fact that they’re likely to start one senior, one junior, and three sophomores isn’t likely to slow them down.

Under sixth-year Coach Mike Rhodes, VCU has never won fewer than 18 games, only once had a KenPom ranking out of the top 100 (his first season), never finished below .500 in conference, and reached the NCAA Tournament twice– once with an 8 seed in 2019, and once with a 10 seed in 2021. 

4.  Davidson

Yes, Davidson has a new coach, but not really. Legendary longtime coach Bob McKillop stepped down in June of this year, and his son Matt will be taking over without missing a beat. The regular season A-10 champions and an at large tournament team last year, Davidson lost two fantastic players in 6’10 forward Luka Brajkovic and 6’7″ three point marvel Hyunjung Lee.  I remember seeing Lee take over the game at Loyola in 2019 with 19 of Davidson’s 59 points off the bench as a freshman.  But the Davidson pipeline of intriguing and often underestimated foreign players continues, with players like 6’9″ Sam Menenga from New Zealand, and players from Iceland, Italy, and Switzerland.

Bob’s son Matt is probably so immersed in the culture of the Wildcats, and Belk Arena is such a tough place to play that I doubt they will slide as far as others expect– especially in a season where the league has a lot of parity from 3rd place to 7th.

5.  Loyola

I’m going to put Loyola here. The Ramblers have a very tough schedule in the league, facing Dayton, George Mason, and Saint Louis twice each, and getting Davidson on the road.  The month of January is especially brutal; I wouldn’t be surprised if Loyola is 4-5 on Feb. 1. 

Jalen Quinn looks like a top candidate for A-10 freshman of the year.  Philip Alston has the physicality, athleticism and aggressiveness needed for a league with more NBA prospects than the MVC. Braden Norris and Tom Welch will help coordinate the offense and defense with newcomers like Bryce Golden, Sheldon Edwards, Ben Schweiger, Jeameril Wilson, Trey Lewis, and Jayden Dawson. 

The key part of the season in my opinion are the three games from Jan. 4 to Jan. 10, six days that will quite possibly decide the season:  Jan. 4 at Davidson, Jan. 7 at George Mason, and Jan. 10 at home vs. VCU.  With wins in 2 or 3 of those games, the Ramblers will likely get a bye into the quarterfinals in Brooklyn;  one win probably yields sixth place; zero wins in those three and Loyola’s joining “the Wednesday night pillow fight,” as one A-10 fan called it.

6.  George Mason

Coach Kim English took over at George Mason last season and surprised almost everyone with a 14-16 campaign and a 7-9 league mark.  Mason will most probably be starting four seniors and a freshman this season, but they could have five seniors on the floor whenever they want.

Last year Mason knocked off Richmond, Dayton, and St. Bonaventure, three of the best teams in the league.  Not coincidentally, Mason features one of the best individual players in the A-10, 6’9″ 235-pound Josh Oduro, who averaged 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game as a junior last season.  The Patriots have also used the transfer portal to add upperclassmen from Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and New Mexico.

7.   Richmond

Last year’s A-10 Conference Tournament champion lost two great players that are legends in the program, Jacob Gilyard (now the all time steals leader in D-I) and Grant Golden.

Coach Chris Mooney is back, and so is A-10 first-teamer Tyler Burton. Familiar names like Matt Grace and Andre Guftavson have returned. The Spiders have also added a 7′ transfer from Lafayette and two big guard/forwards from Wofford and The Citadel. After McKillop’s retirement at Davidson, Mooney is now the dean of A-10 coaches in his 18th year at Richmond after taking over from Jerry Wainright (who left for DePaul).

8.  UMass

Frank Martin takes over at UMass this year, and will have a big re-building program. The Minutemen have only had one winning season in the past seven (an 8-7 record in the pandemic year), and haven’t been to the tournament since 2014.

Martin has a Final Four under his belt from South Carolina in 2017 and an Elite Eight from Kansas State in 2010, and you can already feel the change in attitude from the UMass fans from this bold hire. The Minutemen were picked to finish 8th in the A-10 Preseason Poll.  The Almanac has UMass 9th, and KenPom slots them 11th.

9.  Rhode Island

Archie Miller is back in the A-10 after a sojourn of sorts to Indiana. Rhody is known as a place to burnish coaching credentials, having hired the likes of Jim Harrick, Al Skinner, and Dan Hurley.  If Miller can turn around Rhode Island, how long will he stay?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?  Rhode Island hasn’t been to the tournament since the back-to-back trips in the last two Dan Hurley years.  So only twice since 1999.  URI was 11th in the league last year, 5-12 in conference play. The Rams are picked 9th by The Almanac, 10th by KenPom, and 9th in the A-10 preseason poll.

10.  St. Bonaventure

After a really great run with some special talent over the past five years, Mark Schmidt came into this season with the challenge of stocking a program with high expectations and a fervent fan base right away. 

Last year, St. Bonaventure knocked off three power programs before losing to Xavier in the NIT semifinals.  Schmidt relied on a tight rotation of six or seven key players.  This year, St. Bonaventure had the nation’s lowest percentage of returning scorers coming into this season, just four points from a sophomore, which comes out to .004 of the Bona’s total scoring from last season.

But look at the track record:  Since 2016, Schmidt has piloted the Bonnies to A-10 finishes of a tie for first, fifth, second, fourth, tie for fifth, first, and fourth.  So even with not much in the cupboard, it’s a safe bet Schmidt can come up with something.

11.  Fordham

After first-year Head Coach Kyle Neptune took Fordham up to rarefied heights last season– a .500 record and the middle of the A-10 standings– he was hired away to replace his mentor as head coach at Villanova.  Neptune’s top assistant Keith Urgo was tabbed to try to keep Fordham competitive with the improved competitive philosophy brought in by Neptune.  Many people are slating the Rams for a lower seeding (The Almanac picked them for 13th ) , but I feel like their young talent like will improve and keep them a little higher than the bottom four.

12.  Duquesne

The Dukes are supposed to have a new attitude and a lot of great talent for Head Coach Keith Dambrot.  Before last season’s terrible 1-16 A-10 league finish, the Dukes had been headed in the right direction under Dambrot, the former high school coach of LeBron James and college Head Coach at Akron.

Problems the past two years closing out close games and locker room management questions have swirled around the program, but clearing out some of the locker room and bringing in a lot of new talent via transfer is supposed to help.  Still, the new players don’t have a lot of size. 

13.  St. Joseph’s

It’s year four of the Billy Lange era at St. Joe’s.  Lange took over after St. Joe’s legend Phil Martelli was er, unceremoniously let go after a 14-19 season in 2018-19.  One of those 14 wins that season was against Loyola in an ugly 45-42 game at the Palestra.  In the years since, Lange’s Hawks have gone 6-26, 5-15, and 11-19.  Gotta give people a pass on at least one year for Covid, but not looking too good.

Lange was hired from the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, and his philosophy is to run an NBA-style offense.  I suppose the theory is that it’s good for student athletes seeking a pro career, it’s more exciting for fans, and it’s the trajectory of college basketball is headed that way.  A large part of his plan was thwarted by COVID shutdowns. A fair number of fans were angry about the way 24-year veteran Phil Martelli (with a college coaching record of 444-328) was let go– or that he was let go at all. 

I watched the St. Joe’s exhibition against a .500 Division III team that scored 80 points in Hagan Arena last week, and it feels like if you’re going to play that way you should have at least one or two guys who have NBA bodies/skills and a better defensive scheme.  

14.  LaSalle

LaSalle is one of those great urban college basketball programs that appeal to Loyola fans. They’re the 1954 NCAA National Champions (and they beat Bradley for the title), a former MCC conference foe, home of Lionel Simmons (the Philly version of Alfredrick Hughes), and a team that usually gets pretty far in the tournament when they get there.  Unfortunately, the last time LaSalle got to the tournament was 2013, when they got to the Sweet 16 as a 13 seed.  

Legendary Philly Coach Fran Dunphy (580-325 career college coaching record at Penn and Temple) was tabbed last spring to be the new Head Coach at LaSalle at age 73.  He’s charged with putting a winning group out on the floor, and he’s using every trick of the trade he knows to get it done. He’s put together a roster of a lot of unknown foreign players, a couple of returning guards, a wing, and a big man. 

Just tactically, you figure Coach Dunphy can make some improvements, but the league is probably also better overall than it was last year. The Almanac picked LaSalle for 15th, and the A-10 Preseason poll had them at 14th.

15.  George Washington

New head coach Chris Caputo takes over a team that played well in conference after a rough start to last season.  Their 2nd and 3rd leading scorers transferred out when the coach was replaced. Coming in are Kansas State transfer Maximus Edwards.

Caputo comes from the Jim Larranaga coaching tree, so it’s a bit ironic that he’d start his head coaching career across town in the same league as the source of Larranaga’s first success.  But assuming he succeeds at George Washington, it will take a few year.  

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Loyola Joins the Atlantic 10 Conference July 1

Loyola’s move to the Atlantic 10 Conference– announced suddenly on the afternoon of Nov. 16, 2021– came as a surprise to almost everyone. Even many A-10 insiders said it was a thing of wonder to have it announced as a near total surprise, without any scuttlebutt or leaks.  It took me so much by surprise that I had to verify it three times over before I believed it myself.

The Ramblers had experienced some impressive success in the MVC, and the conference had already announced the addition of a respected program– Belmont– to next year’s lineup.  This might seem like a time where the MVC is on the move upwards, especially considering the addition of Murray State, another perennial tournament-level team.  Many Loyola fans from downstate and neighboring rural areas were initially disappointed.  Frankly, I initially thought it was something of a lateral move with worse travel.  But after some investigation it makes a whole lot of sense– even considering the MVC had been a positive, healthy home for the Ramblers for nine years, and the road trips were nearby and fun.

Over on the East Coast, the decision immediately made perfect sense to A-10 fans.  Rambler fans– after getting over the “out of the blue” surprise of the announcement– were mostly in favor of the decision, but there were a few (mostly location-related) reservations.  Here’s why Loyola’ move to the A-10 make a whole lot of sense:

Loyola’s move to the Atlantic 10 matches up the largest Jesuit school in the nation with many peer schools and former conference rivals.  Although the other schools in the A-10 are primarily on the east coast and will require more travel time and expense, A-10 schools have a markedly higher academic reputation, most of the schools have endowments that promise consistency in their academic and athletic investments, and the yearly funding levels for athletics more closely matches what the Ramblers have been spending in the MVC.

At the beginning of the 2021-22 basketball season, the MVC’s 10 member schools (including Loyola) had an average men’s basketball budget of $2,917,454, while the average of the 14 Atlantic 10 schools was $4,991,756 (Note: These are 2020 numbers, the latest numbers available).  But Loyola was far and away the leader in men’s basketball expenditures with $4,348,837– more than $570k above the second leading team (Bradley) in the MVC, and $1.4 million more than the average budget.  In the Atlantic 10, Loyola’s 2020 budget would rank 9th among the 15 schools as of 2020.

Loyola was also far-and-away the leader in university endowments as the MVC was composed at the start of the 2021-22 season: $1.072 billion.  The league average was $269 million. Without Loyola, the other nine schools averaged an endowment of only $180 million.  Belmont and Murray State were both below the average MVC endowment when Loyola was factored in.  Meanwhile, over in the A-10, Loyola’s endowment is just a few million more than the average A-10 endowment, and quite a bit more than the median endowment of $610 million.

Saint Louis University and Fordham are fellow Big City Jesuit schools, with similar enrollment, endowment, and academic reputation profiles.  St. Joseph’s is also an urban area Jesuit school with a fine basketball tradition.  Loyola was briefly conference mates with La Salle, Duquesne, and Dayton–three private schools with rich basketball histories.

The Ramblers have a 24-22 all time record against St. Louis, a former MCC conference mate in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Dayton was also in the MCC from 1988 to 1993, and Loyola is 15-33 all time against the Flyers.  Loyola is 3-2 all time against St. Bonaventure, 0-5 against La Salle, 6-11 against Duquesne, 3-2 against George Washington, 1-1 against Fordham, 2-1 against St. Joseph’s, 1-1 against Richmond, and 0-2 against Davidson.  The Ramblers have never played Rhode Island, UMass, George Mason, or VCU– which are the public schools in the A-10.

Through its history, the A-10 has had some legendary tournament success.  As a member of the A-10, Temple University went to the tournament 17 out of 18 years from 1984 to 2001, getting to the Elite Eight five times in that stretch.  Xavier left the MCC for the A-10 in the 1995-96 season, and reached the NCAA Tournament in 13 of 18 years in the A-10 before joining the Big East.  Butler– who missed out on the tournament their last year in the Horizon League– played one year in the A-10 before the formation of the new Big East, and their only year in the A-10 they got an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with an 11-5 conference record (tied for third place).

Having closely watched the quality of basketball in the MVC over the past nine-plus years, it might seem like the there’s not such a big difference between the two conferences.  After all, Loyola and Wichita State both made the Final Four in the past decade, and both the Ramblers and Shockers added another Sweet 16 besides their Final Four finishes.  UNI has a Sweet 16 and two first round wins since 2010. 

Nevertheless, the A-10 has had 45 NCAA Tournament bids since 2007-08, while the MVC has had 19.  That’s 3.2 bids per year for the A-10 and 1.35 per year for the MVC.  Since Temple, Butler and Xavier left the conference in 2013, the A-10 has had 24 bids while the MVC has had 11.  Saint Louis had three first-round wins in a row from 2012 to 2014; LaSalle had a Sweet 16 in 2013; VCU has made the NCAA Tournament seven of nine opportunities since it joined the A10 in 2013 (and notched two first round wins); Rhode Island had consecutive first-round wins in 2017 and 2018; and Dayton has had an Elite Eight and two first-round wins since 2009.  Add up the A10’s tournament wins on top of their 45 bids since 2008, and the A10 has had a record of success that spreads across the conference and improves the reputation of the league. 

The A-10 has had five at-large bids in the past four tournaments, while the MVC has had one.  From 2008 to 2018, the A-10 never had fewer than three bids to the tournament and had four, five, and six bids from 2012 to 2014.  Meanwhile, the MVC hasn’t had three bids in a single year since 2006. 

And here’s something really, really important– what if you win the league, but don’t win the tournament?  Over the past nine years in the MVC (since Loyola joined), the regular season conference champion has missed the tournament 5 times (UNI in 2022, UNI 2020, Drake and Loyola 2019, and Illinois State 2017).  No regular season champion has missed the NCAA Tournament in the A10 since St. Joseph’s in 2005 (when the conference had uneven East and West divisions). 

We all know AP rankings are very subjective, but no one can deny that they’re an important benchmark of recognition of a college basketball program.  Wichita State made it to a #2 national ranking (and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament) in 2013-14 as a member of the MVC.  The Shockers made it into the AP Top 25 each of their next three years in the MVC before leaving for the American Athletic Conference.  But since then, the only MVC members  to crack the AP Top 25 in the past five years are Loyola (six weeks in 2021, one week in 2022) and Drake (one week in 2021). 

Meanwhile, in the last three years, six different A-10 teams have made it into the AP Top 25 rankings.  And seven different A-10 teams (Davidson, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Richmond, VCU, Dayton, and Rhode Island) have been ranked in the past five years.  Since joining the A10 in 1995, Dayton has appeared in the AP Top 25 rankings ten times, culminating in a #3 ranking to end the season in 2020.

But Loyola is not just recruiting for men’s basketball players and other student-athletes through their A-10 affiliation– Loyola is looking to expand their academic recruiting and national profile by playing in New York City, New England, Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Charlotte, Richmond, Dayton, and Pittsburgh.   Almost 50% of Americans (47.6%) live in the Eastern time zone as opposed to 29% in the Central.  And the A-10 has a presence in four of the top 10, and seven of the top 26 US television markets– with multiple schools in the DC and Philly metros.  Add the Buffalo area with many St. Bonaventure fans (#53), Richmond (#56), and Dayton (#65), and the A-10 has a massive potential audience compared to the MVC.  The Missouri Valley has UIC/Valpo in the Chicago metro (#3), Belmont in Nashville (#29), and Drake in Des Moines (#68).

On the academic and reputation side, US News ranks eight of the 14 A-10 member schools entering the 2021-22 season as among the top 170 National Universities.  Not only that, but the University of Richmond (with its $3.3 billion endowment) and Davidson College (with its $1.3 billion endowment) were ranked #22 and #13 nationally among the 2000+ Liberal Arts colleges in that category.  That makes 10 of the 14 A-10 schools ranking among the top national colleges and universities, with four schools in the top 103– even before adding Loyola.  The MVC had two schools in the top 170, Loyola at 103 and Drake at 136.  UIC (tied with Loyola at #103) and Belmont (at #162) will help bump up the MVC’s academic reputation, but it’s a far cry from the A-10 profile.

In 2013, when Loyola had the chance to get out of the mismanaged, oppressive Horizon League– a conference that literally changed its conference tournament format as punishment for Loyola reaching the final instead of Butler– the Ramblers had corrected their anemic financial position of the 1990s, bolstered their endowment, and opened a quality on-campus facility. The MVC was a very good regional match for Loyola, and the Ramblers gave the MVC a large market for their broadcast marketing.  But Loyola’s Jesuit educational focus and urban megalopolis setting didn’t always fit well with the other schools in the league.  Loyola’s welcome to the conference was– er, tepid.  If you read the Wichita State message board, Loyola was the worst thing that ever happened to the MVC, and many Shocker fans used Loyola’s admission as a reason for jumping to the AAC.

In contrast to the MVC, Loyola’s move to the A-10 has been perfect.  No one has asked if The Pope is going to coach the basketball team, or if we approve of everything Lori Lightfoot says.  No one has come after us for the capacity of our arena, the liberalism (or conservatism) of the city we happened to be located in, whether our new coach is a capable, or whether we’ll add baseball to make them happy.  No one (that I know of) has posted an irate screed demanding that people in the A-10 head office be fired for even considering us as a member while the University of Nebraska-Omaha is out there.

Let us all appreciate this.


2013-2022: Looking Back on Loyola’s Time in the Missouri Valley Conference

As Loyola leaves the Missouri Valley Conference for the Atlantic 10 on July 1, 2022, it’s a good time to reflect on the Ramblers in the MVC. Loyola sports teams have had phenomenal success since joining the MVC and reversed a lot of negative opinions about Loyola sports both locally and nationally. Even within the Loyola community and the surrounding Rogers Park area, people have started to see Loyola as a more well-rounded school with some viable collegiate sports opportunities and sports as a local entertainment option. The impending move to the A-10 promises to be an even better match for the university both academically and in athletics.

In 1979, Loyola was one of the six founding members of the Midwestern City/Midwestern Collegiate/Horizon League. The other schools were Butler, Evansville, Oklahoma City, Oral Roberts, and Xavier. At various times in the 1980s and early 1990s, the MCC had the makings of a power basketball conference, with Marquette, St. Louis, Dayton, Detroit, La Salle, and Duquesne filtering in and out of the league. But by 1995, all those schools besides Butler and Detroit were gone, and the departures meant the league had lost its auto bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 1992-93 season. To keep afloat, the conference raided the Mid-Continent Conference of six lower-budget public schools that had recently gained Division I status: Cleveland State, UIC, Northern Illinois, UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, and Wright State.

With six public schools added to Butler, Detroit, and Loyola, the quality of the league, the academics, and the athletic department resources of peer institutions changed in an instant. Loyola suddenly had a fierce league rival in their own media market/recruiting area, peer institutions in their league with Tier III academics, conference rivals who had larger assistant coaching staffs (paid as state employees), and new facilities of competitors constructed/funded by state government. It didn’t help much that Loyola was going through a really bad stretch of men’s basketball in the early 1990s. The university was running a huge deficit while painfully re-organizing their financial structure, and the facilities for athletics were terrible. With sub-par facilities, a tight budget, and little success on the playing field, Loyola remained mired (er, you could say stuck)in the Horizon League for 20 years.

By 2012, Butler also bailed out of the Horizon League, leaving for the A-10 and making Loyola the lone original member of the conference. But by the early 2010s, Loyola had upgraded or improved facilities, set their financial house in order, added coaching staff positions (especially with low-revenue sports), and started to achieve some success on the field. The following year, 2013, saw enormous conference re-alignment; approximately one third of Division I schools changed conferences in one year. And when the Missouri Valley Conference had a spot to fill, Loyola had their bags packed and sitting next to the door.

Since July 1, 2013, when the Ramblers officially joined the MVC, Loyola has had fantastic success in men’s basketball. Three trips to the NCAA Tournament (2018, 2021, 2022), an NCAA Final Four (2018), two NCAA Sweet 16s (2018, 2021), one trip to the NIT (2019), a CBI Championship (2015), three MVC tournament titles (2018, 2021, 2022), and three MVC regular-season championships (2018, 2019, 2021). The Ramblers had three different MVC Player of the Year recipients (Clayton Cuter, Marques Townes, Cameron Krutwig).

In the nine seasons Loyola had in the MVC, men’s basketball compiled a 191-110 (.635) overall record and 96-66 (.593) in conference. The Ramblers were 13-6 (.684) at Arch Madness, and had an 11-4 (.733) record in five postseason tournaments. The men’s squad captured trophies for winning the MVC tournament in 2018, 2021, and 2022, and got a giant NCAA trophy for winning the South Region in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Women’s basketball changed coaches a few weeks before it was announced Loyola was headed for the MVC. Incoming head coach Sheryl Swoopes had a Hall of Fame playing resume, but her leadership style turned sour as her teams struggled. She drove away some of her best players before she was replaced, and Kate Achter did a good, but slow, job of rebuilding the program. Loyola was 98-172 (.363) overall and 55-107 (.340) in conference in the MVC. The Ramblers finished over .500 in conference twice, in 2016 and 2022.

Despite some struggles in women’s basketball, Loyola athletics had some great success in other women’s sports. Women’s soccer won their last four straight MVC Championships. Loyola’s women’s cross country ended their time in the MVC with three straight championships. Women’s volleyball reached the MVC Championship game in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In nine years in the MVC, men’s soccer had an 84-54-28 overall record, ranking as one of the two best programs in the league over that time. In five of their nine years in the MVC, the men’s soccer squad earned a top-two finish in the conference. The men’s soccer program won the regular season title and secured their first NCAA tournament win in program history in 2016, and the Ramblers played in three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference championship games from 2018-2021, upsetting #9 Missouri State in 2019 to reach the NCAA Tournament for a second time representing the MVC.

After finishing in the bottom two places in five out of their first six years in the conference, men’s golf won the MVC Championship in 2021. Women’s golf finished last their first year in the league, but placed in the middle of the standings most other years.

And lastly but not least, although they don’t play in the MVC, men’s volleyball has had stunning success since Loyola joined the MVC. Only a week or so after Loyola’s move to the MVC was official, men’s volleyball won its first MIVA championship and first trip to the NCAA Tournament. The following two years, Loyola won the National Championship. In the past nine years, Loyola men’s volleyball has finished first or second in the MIVA standings six times out of eight.

Loyola’s time in the MVC was really astoundingly successful. Given where Loyola was in April 2013, it would be hard to rationally imagine the men’s basketball program being any more successful than it has over the past five years. The Ramblers knocked out a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (bonus points– it was the Fighting Illini) en route to a second Sweet 16 appearance in four years. Think about this– Loyola had a double-digit lead in the National Semifinal game– in real life…. seriously! It’s still hard to process, even after subsequent success and five consecutive seasons of 20+ wins.

The astounding success in the MVC years has completely, absolutely, 100% obliterated almost all of the “yeah, you’ve got a National Championship, but what have you done lately?” talk that many Loyola fans had to listen to for decades. Moreover, the proud past of Loyola basketball has had a renaissance with newfound appreciation for the school’s role in civil rights, integration, and college basketball history.