A year or so after Ramblermania went live on July 17, 1998, a message board was added to the site and Brot1Britu popped up. Absolutely impossible not to like, Brot quickly embraced the role of elder statesman and helped Ramblermania have some of the best institutional knowledge of any college basketball message board.
I had the opportunity to attend several games sitting next to Brot in the late 1990s and early 2000s in Cleveland and Youngstown. We developed a long distance friendship offline as well, exchanging cards, letters, books, and other gifts.
Brot was already retired from his work in building equipment sales and well into his 60s when he discovered and embraced the early internet. On Ramblermania, he posted all about growing up as a Cubs fan on the far West Side near Oak Park, where he was a childhood friend of future fellow Rambler Bob Newhart. Brot and Bob attended Loyola together, but Brot left school before graduation to start working. Brot’s devotion to his wife Dolores (whom he nicknamed “Longshot Lor” for her decision to take a chance on marrying Brot), was a regular feature of his posts that could melt hearts; Dolores passed away in 2012.
Brot was the genuine article… a buoyant, energetic, Mid-Century Midwestern Guy, with deep faith throughout his life. It was impossible to be down in the dumps in his company, no matter how bad the Ramblers might have been that season. Peace to him and his big, loving family. And may someone else step up and do the hard job he did all his life, being positive and making other people happy they’re around.
Comments Off on In Memoriam: Britton ‘Brot1Britu’ Rinehart
Posted onOctober 29, 2022 | By: John C. Thomas |Comments Off on The 25 Best Loyola Men’s Basketball Teams of All Time: Part 5 (The Top 5)
The 2020-21 Loyola Ramblers: The Peak of The Moser Years
25-5, 16-2 Missouri Valley (1st Place), Sweet 16
Coach Porter Moser put Loyola back on the
college basketball map with a total rebuild that began in 2011 and culminated
in a Final Four in 2018. But the team sputtered a bit in 2019 and 2020, losing
at Arch Madness in the semi and quarter-finals.
So after a Final Four, there was a one-and-done NIT and an unlikely
postseason chance as a pandemic shut down sports and much of society.
The COVID-19 pandemic that eliminated the 2020
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was still raging at the start of the 2020-21 season.
Just before the 2020 season was set to begin, 11 Ramblers were diagnosed with
the virus. That shut down the opening of
the season, cancelled the MTE (Loyola’s best chance at establishing a non-con
resume), and upset the practice schedule.
Loyola (and many other teams) were suddenly scrambling for opportunities
to replace some resume-building opportunities.
Loyola wasn’t able to get their season started
until Dec. 5, and was only able to schedule seven non-conference games, only
five of them against Division I teams. On Dec. 15, the Ramblers got a
hastily-scheduled game against Wisconsin in Madison because the Badgers had an
opponent get a positive COVID case.
Loyola performed well in most of the first half, then came out flat in
the second half, losing 77-63. In
another short-notice game against A10 favorite Richmond at a neutral site, the
Spiders were up by 15 at halftime before Loyola closed the gap late. The final
was Richmond 75, Loyola 73. When there
was a gap in play because of an early cancellation of conference games, the
Ramblers made the best of it by scheduling a non-con against CUSA contender
North Texas. Loyola won that game at
Gentile, 57-49, against an eventual tournament team.
To avoid unnecessary and excessive person to person
contact and travel during the pandemic, the MVC scheduled back-to-back games in
random home or away pairs. The exception was games with the nearby travel
partner, which would remain home and road. In a conference as competitive as
the Valley, where road wins are at a premium even for the very good teams, it
seemed like a particularly daunting challenge.
And boom, sure enough, the Ramblers lost the
front end game of their first conference road trip to Indiana State. That put Loyola at 7-3 overall, 2-1 in
conference, with a KenPom of 45. Not so
good for the Ramblers with no more space to fit in a non-con resume-builder. But the next night Loyola avenged their loss
to Indiana State and reeled off 11 wins in a row. The most impressive stretch featured five
away games in a row against Valpo, two at Bradley, and two at Missouri State in
which Loyola won all five by an average of 20.4 points.
Without any Q1 non-con games to boost the
resume, Loyola relied on building their KenPom efficiency numbers, and the
Pomeroy numbers shot up during the 11-game streak in which 10 of the 11 wins
were by double digits. The 45 KenPom
after the loss at Indiana State shot up to 10 after Loyola won its 11th in a
row at Drake. The Drake Bulldogs were
the other unexpected story of 2020-21.
Coach Darian DeVries’ tea started off the year 18-0 before their first
loss at Valpo. By the time Loyola beat
them 81-54 in Des Moines to open their two game series, Drake was at 57 in
So now Loyola had a 10-point win over CUSA
leader North Texas and a 27-point road win over a KenPom 57… there’s your Q1
win! Seems the 27-point smack down was a
little too much for Drake to abide, so the next day they fought, scratched, and
willed their way to a 51-50 overtime win after they seemed done in
regulation. That win over the Ramblers
and the rest of their body of work (25-4 on Selection Sunday) was enough to get
them an at large NCAA bid to the First Four, where they beat Wichita
Loyola won the MVC regular season with a 16-2
record. Taking no chances at Arch
Madness, they won their three games in the conference tournament by an average
of 16.7 points. It was the third regular
season conference championship and second conference tournament championship in
four years. It happened at a moment when
college basketball prognosticators realized the value of efficiency metrics,
and Loyola went into Selection Sunday ranked #9 in KenPom. But there were no
wins against P5 teams, so where to put them?
The NCAA decided on an 8 seed.
In the NCAA Tournament, Loyola faced a
banged-up Georgia Tech team that shocked the ACC with a run to the title. The Ramblers beat the Yellow Jackets somewhat
easily, winning 71-60. That put Loyola
on a collision course with the Illini, who won the Big Ten conference
tournament and ranked #2 in all of college basketball in KenPom.
Famously, the Ramblers embarrassed the Illini
with a 71-58 humiliation in which they were out-played in every phase of the
game. That win, knocking out the #1 seed
in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 just four years after a Final
Four, was the game that cemented Loyola as a program that had arrived, and not
just Cinderella or a one-hit wonder.
The Ramblers lost their Sweet 16 game against Oregon State (coached by former Alumni Gym gym rat Wayne Tinkle). And the inevitable happened– Coach Moser took a big money job at a P5 school, Oklahoma. Cameron Krutwig decided to move on as well, to a pro career. Drew Valentine was promoted to Head Coach, the youngest in Division I. And less than eight months later, Loyola accepted an invitation to join the A10.
The 1948-49 Loyola Ramblers: From No Program at All to a National Title Game in 4 Years
25-6, NIT Runner Up
Loyola’s Hall of Fame Coach Lenny Sachs died
suddenly at the age of 45 in the first year of World War II, when young men of
college age were opting for the military out of high school or putting their
college studies on hold. Coach Sachs
died a few weeks before the men’s basketball season, and assistant John
Connelly took over to lead Loyola to a 12-10 record. But without a permanent head coach and a war
raging, Loyola put the program in sleep mode for the rest of the war.
After two full years with no team at all,
Loyola tabbed former DePaul Coach, military veteran, and seated DePaul Athletic
Director Thomas Haggerty to re-start the Loyola basketball program. Building
slowly and surely, Haggerty recruited some great talent: 6’6″ power forward Jack Kerris out of
Chicago De La Salle was a star– holding the Loyola career scoring record of
1556 until Harkness broke it in 1963. Gerry Nagel was the point guard, Don Hanrahan
a guard/forward, and Ed Earle more of a muscular forward who could handle the
ball; all three had at least a year in the nascent NBA. Air Force veteran Ben
Bluitt was the first African-American Loyola men’s basketball player in 1946;
he played sixth man, and added length and leap to the skill set. Bluitt coached high school in Chicago, was an
assistant to Dick Viatle at Detroit, and became the second Black head coach in
the Ivy League at Cornell.
Loyola’s 1949 regular season featured wins over
Big Ten teams Wisconsin and Purdue on the road, a home/road sweep over
Marquette, a road win over NIT entrant St. John’s, a 14-point win at St.
Bonaventure, and a 32-point home win over Villanova.
The 1948-49 team suffered three regular season one-point
road losses: A 45-44 road loss at
Toledo, a 59-58 loss at #14 Holy Cross (featuring Bob Cousy), and a 52-51
overtime loss at Duquesne. Loyola also
split home and road games with DePaul and Bowling Green.
It’s important to remember that in 1949, the
NIT had more participants (12) than the NCAA Tournament (8). And that’s even with some schools (Kentucky
in 1949, CCNY in 1950) sometimes entering BOTH tournaments. So the NIT still had a lot of relevance, and
many people thought it was more prestigious.
Loyola’s first opponent was CCNY, who would win BOTH the NIT and NCAA Tournaments in 1950, the only time any team would do so. The Ramblers won 62-47 in that NIT play-in round at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 1949. Next up was #1 Kentucky– Loyola beat the #1 Wildcats 61-56 on March 14, 1949– and Kentucky went on to play in the NCAA Tournament where they won the National Championship.
On March 17, 1949, Loyola beat #7 Bradley to advance to the NIT Final. This set up the final game, on Saturday, March 19, 1949, with Loyola (an unexpected underdog who was supposed to lose to Kentucky) facing off against San Francisco (an unexpected underdog who was supposed to lose to Saint Louis or Utah).
In the final, USF got out to a lead, but Loyola fought back and tied the game at 47-all in the closing 90 seconds. This is where USF Coach Pete Newell was pretty clever, and his team was able to execute. When USF got a free throw, the 48-47 lead, and the ball, they held it. In the the late 40s, the rule was when you got fouled, you had a choice between free throws OR keeping possession and inbounding. USF chose to inbound after every foul, and Loyola never got possession back.
Newell’s NIT Championship strategy got him hired away by Michigan State in 1950, and in the late 50s he returned to Northern California to coach Cal to the 1959 NCAA Championship. (That’s right, CAL has a Natty!)
The 1928-29 Loyola Ramblers: An Undefeated Season in the Middle of a 31-Game Winning Streak
In 1929, there was no KenPom, SRS, RPI, or any
other accurate metrics to compare one team against another. There were few statistics beyond final game
scores. And postseason championship tournaments were still nine years away. So I’m working off of my estimates and
knowledge of the era and conditions to fill in some of the hard numbers that
supported the rankings of the other teams.
The Helms Foundation was created in the 1930s
as an organization to promote amateur athletics, and in 1943 they began naming
college basketball national champions (considering both the NCAA and NIT
tournaments and the body of work in the regular season). In the 1950s, they
released a retroactive list of their declared champions from the years before
postseason tournaments. Their selection
for the men’s basketball championship of 1928-29 was Montana State, a team that
went 36-2 against anyone and everyone they could schedule, in an era when 22
games was on the high average end of total games played.
The 1928-29 team was the squad that launched
Loyola from a smaller, regional program to a national power in college
basketball. Coach Lenny Sachs—inducted
into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1961—had only three seasons under
.500 from 1925 to 1942. In that span, he won 212 games against 107 losses, and
had two undefeated regular seasons.
The thing that propelled Sachs and Loyola into the upper echelon of college basketball was the fact that the National Catholic Interscholastic Basketball Tournament was held at Loyola’s Alumni Gym from 1924 through 1941. Loyola had the best Catholic school basketball players coming to campus each and every year, with Coach Sachs there to recruit them. When the 1928 and 1929 teams took off, Coach Sachs showed that he could do a lot with raw talent he saw at the high school tournament.
The 1928-29 Loyola Ramblers began the season
with a four-game winning streak held over from the 1927-28 team, and went on to
an undefeated season at 16-0. Two of
Loyola’s close wins were against Saint Louis, which was 14-4 that season and
twice beat the MVC champion.
Loyola was the only undefeated team in 1928-29, and beat their opponents by an average of 23% per game (27.38 to 17.06). The Ramblers played a solid schedule at the time, maybe not the most challenging schedule, but still undefeated. North Carolina’s 34-game winning streak from 1923-25 featured several non-college amateur teams, such as the Durham Elks Club, Charlotte YMCA, etc. That was a fairly common practice back then. But Loyola played all college teams in their 1928-29 season.
The key thing about Loyola dominance in 1928-29 was that it came in the middle of a 31-game winning streak that began on Feb. 18, 1928 with a 27-18 win over Lombard College (Carl Sandburg’s alma mater), and ended with a 25-20 overtime loss at Purdue (featuring a sophomore star named John Wooden) on Jan 30, 1930. As part of that streak, the Ramblers defeated Xavier five times; Detroit three times; Saint Louis, Dayton, Bradley, Western Michigan, and North Dakota twice; and Butler, Vanderbilt, Duquesne, Arkansas State, South Dakota State, and Montana State (the defending Helms Champion from 1928-29) once.
A couple weeks after the 31-game streak ended
at Purdue in the 1929-30 season, Loyola went on to defeat North Carolina, the
team that held the record for the longest winning streak (34 games, from
1923-1925). That North Carolina team from
1923-25 counted victories against the Durham Elks (twice), Charlotte YMCA, and
other assorted opponents as wins. Yes,
Loyola played some weaklings also, but at least they were other colleges.
The top player on that 1928-29 team was Charlie “Feed” Murphy, a 6’4″ forward who earned All-American honors in 1929 and 1930. Murphy started playing pro out of college for a variety of teams, including the Chicago Bruins, Oshkosh All Stars, and Chicago Duffy Florals.
The 1938-39 Loyola Ramblers: Undefeated Regular Season, The Pinnacle of Coach Sachs’ Career
22-1, NIT Runner Up
Ten years after his first undefeated season,
Loyola Coach Lenny Sachs put together one of the great teams in college
basketball for another undefeated schedule. In 1929, there was no such thing as
a postseason tournament, so he did everything possible to build Loyola’s
reputation though better scheduling, and made innovations in defensive schemes.
In 1935, after earning a Master’s degree at Loyola, he was elevated to Athletic
Coach Sachs’ 1929 team and the 31-game winning
streak from 1928 to 1930 was overlooked by a lot of college basketball
fans. Beginning in 1929-30, Coach Sachs
really stepped up his scheduling, getting games with Purdue, North Carolina,
Knowing he had a fantastic team in 1938-39,
Coach Sachs got the big enrollment, football dominant schools on the schedule
and picked out some good Independent college hoops squads. Columbia (Ivy League), Chicago (Big Ten),
Michigan State, Santa Clara, Villanova (an NCAA
Final Four team that Loyola defeated 51-32), Drake (MVC Champion that
Loyola beat twice by a combined 25 points), Toledo x2 (with a 17-10 record),
and George Washington (13-8 record).
Led by 6’0″ senior guard Wibs Kautz (16 points per game) and 6’9″ senior center Mike Novak (consensus All-American), the Ramblers plowed through the schedule, defeating their opponents by an average of 15.7 points per game during the regular season. The Ramblers started four seniors and a sophomore, so they played well together as a unit. Kautz and Novak both played together at Tilden High School before coming to Loyola, and they both played professionally on the nascent teams that eventually became the NBA.
Loyola was 20-0 at the end of the regular
season, and accepted an invite to the 1939 NIT, the second year of the
tournament. In response to the NIT, the
NCAA was starting their own tournament in 1939.
There were 6 teams in the NIT:
Bradley, Loyola, Roanoke, Long Island, New Mexico A&M, and St.
John’s. LIU and Loyola were both undefeated.
There were 8 teams in the NCAA
Tournament: Brown, Ohio State,
Villanova, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah State. In the NIT, both Loyola and Long Island were
undefeated. In the NCAA, Loyola had
defeated Villanova by 19, and three NCAA teams had six or more losses.
The Ramblers defeated St. John’s 51-46 in overtime in the semifinal game, which was really more like a road game at Madison Square Garden. That set up the NIT final between two undefeated teams: Loyola at 21-0 and Long Island University at 20-0. LIU beat New Mexico State and Bradley to reach the final, winning a play-in to reach the final game. The NIT had full houses of more than 18,000 at MSG, while the first year of the NCAA Tournament attracted a near-capacity crowd of 4000 to 5000 at Patten Gym in Evanston.
In the Final, the Ramblers were abysmal,
wilting under the pressure of an 18,000-voice hostile crowd. Loyola scored only 32 points, their lowest
output of the season, while the hosts put up 44. The Helms Foundation, in their retroactive
declaration of national championships declared that the NIT Champs Long Island
University were the real national champions, not the NCAA Tournament winner
The 1962-63 Loyola Ramblers: The Greatest, Most Impactful College Basketball Season Ever
29-2 Overall, National Champions
There could only be this team as the best ever
in Loyola history. Looking at the best
teams ever from a Loyola perspective is enlightening, because when we get to
this team it makes one wonder: Has any
other team in the history of college basketball ever had a more successful
year, against such odds, creating so much opportunity for others, making the
game more exciting, and having such lasting impact?
I suppose you could make a case for the 1966
Texas Western Miners. Maybe a UCLA
team? There’s a case for the undefeated
1976 Indiana Hoosiers, I suppose. CCNY
won both the NIT and NCAA in 1950… but they had a point-shaving scandal and
dropped out of the University division of college hoops in 1953, so….
There is no other team in the history of college basketball that had a
better, more thrilling, more important, or more impactful season– ever. Period.
* Winning the National Championship in their
first ever NCAA appearance.
* Setting an NCAA Tournament record for biggest margin of victory, 111-42 (a record that still stands today, 59 years later), in their first ever NCAA Tournament game.
first ever known occurrence when a major college team played five African
American players at the same time on the court (Dec. 28, 1962).
* Defeating the two-time defending champions
and #1 ranked team in the country after…
* Trailing the two-time defending champions and
#1 ranked team in the country by 15 points in the second half, staging a
comeback to win at the buzzer in overtime– the record for biggest comeback in
the NCAA Final for 59 years (until 2022).
* Overcoming the adversity of racist threats,
harassment, taunting, unequal treatment, higher scrutiny, and allegations of
* The starting five playing every minute of the
overtime title game.
* Despite racist suggestions that Loyola’s team
was composed of paid ringers, every starting player graduated from Loyola; one
starter earned a postgraduate law degree; one starter earned a postgraduate
MBA; and one starter earned a BA, three Master’s degrees and a Ph.D.
* Helped change the style of the game for
decades. In 1959, the highest scoring
team in college basketball averaged 87.6 points per game. Loyola averaged 91.8
in 1963, and by 1966 the highest scoring team (Syracuse) was averaging 99
points a game and eight others higher than Loyola’s 1963 scoring average.
* Playing SEC Champ Mississippi State in a
clean, competitive game that almost didn’t happen after the state of
Mississippi prohibited MSU from playing a team with African-Americans.
* Integration of college basketball took a huge
leap forward after Loyola’s championship. Hundreds of scholarships opened up
for qualified African American students, which were subject to quotas or
segregation before. A top example: In 1963, one of the most demonstrably racist
receptions Loyola encountered was at the University of Houston, where they were
pelted with coins, spit on, rude signs in the audience, cat calls, etc. The following year Houston recruited their
first Black football player, and two years later African American basketball players
Don Cheney and Elvin Hayes propelled Houston into a national basketball power.
The list of feats and firsts goes on and on,
now thankfully chronicled and showcased in full documentaries, several books, official
government honors, a meeting with the President in the White House, and enshrinement
in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Yeah, that’s a pretty solid season.
Comments Off on The 25 Best Loyola Men’s Basketball Teams of All Time: Part 5 (The Top 5)
Posted onOctober 21, 2022 | By: John C. Thomas |Comments Off on The 25 Best Loyola Men’s Basketball Teams of All Time: Part 3 (#11-#15)
The countdown of the top 25 Loyola men’s basketball teams of all time continues. The previous teams in the countdown are here.
The 2019-20 Loyola Ramblers: Moments of Greatness, But a Meltdown is Entirely Possible
21-11, 13-5 Missouri Valley (2nd
Three games into the 2019-20 men’s basketball
season, Loyola lost to Coppin State at home.
The Ramblers were a team that went to the Final Four less than two years
before, and they were coming off a conference championship and NIT bid. And now they’re losing a buy game at home to
a MEAC team.
These same Ramblers led South Florida by 6
points at the half and had a 12-point lead over Colorado State with less than
10 minutes to play before losing both games at their MTE in the Cayman Islands.
But Loyola took care of business in the MVC, registering
a 13-5 record, losing to KenPom 49 UNI on the road in overtime and beating them
in overtime at home. Loyola also beat a
top MAC team, Ball State, on the road and knocked off Vanderbilt at a neutral
site in Phoenix. It was the Ramblers’ third consecutive 20-win season after
having only two 20-win seasons in the previous 32 years.
As Arch Madness– the MVC conference tournament–
approached, talk circulated about an airborne virus that could be deadly. Amid
the beginning of this chaos, conference champion and #1 seed UNI lost by more
than 20 points to Drake. It was a huge, crazy upset. When Loyola played a few hours later, they
built a 14-point halftime lead. The
Ramblers had an 18-point lead with 15:44 left, and a six-point lead with 28
seconds left. But Valparaiso got their
only win against Loyola in the MVC in a play-in, come from behind shocker,
73-72 in OT.
Meanwhile, the pandemic news kept getting
worse, so in the days between the start of the conference tournament on Thurs.
March 5, and the Tuesday after, March 10, the whole college basketball world shut
down. For the first time since 1937,
there was no NCAA Tournament, and no NIT.
The 1951-52 Loyola Ramblers: Legendary Old School Ballers in Coach Ireland’s First Season
George Ireland’s tenure at Loyola started with three wins over cupcakes, and three losses in his first games against top teams. After beginning 3-3 with losses at #3 Illinois, at #20 Notre Dame and at home against unranked Western Michigan, the Ramblers had a really excellent season.
Led by Loyola legend Nick Kladis in his senior year,
on January 10, 1952 the Ramblers knocked off #12 St. John’s at their big game
home court, Madison Square Garden. St.
John’s went on to play in that year’s NCAA Tournament Final. Later in the season at Chicago Stadium, the
Ramblers beat #18 DePaul and #14 Seton Hall.
Loyola also staged a home/road sweep over Marquette, beat Xavier in
Chicago, and went on the road to successfully avenge their early season loss to
Along with Kladis, the ’52 Ramblers featured three
other double-digit scorers: 6’7” center
Don Hanrahan (16.7 ppg), guard Ed Maracich (12.4 ppg), and 6’0” forward Bill
Sullivan (10.0 ppg). By the end of the year, Kladis finished his career with
1046 points, becoming the third Rambler to top the 1000 point mark– joining
Jack Kerris (1556) and Ed Earle (1018). Kladis was selected in the 1952 NBA
Draft, created the hugely successful One Stop Foods (remember the late-night
commercials on WGN?), had his number 3 jersey retired by the Ramblers, and
became a minority owner of the St. Louis Cardinals before passing away in 2009.
In 1952, the NCAA Tournament was one year from bumping up to 16 participants while the NIT had 12. Some teams still competed in both tournaments (Dayton and St. John’s, for example, in 1952). The NIT Final Four in 1952 were all future A-10 teams: Dayton, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, and eventual champion LaSalle. With only 26 teams playing postseason college basketball, (Dayton and St. John’s counted twice), the ’52 Ramblers were a bubble team that year whose bubble burst in both tournaments.
The 1949-50 Loyola Ramblers: Tough Schedule, Last Hurrah for Many Seniors
The Ramblers under Coach Tom Haggarty (1945-50)
started off playing against some ad hoc amateur teams in the aftermath of WWII
as returning veterans went back to college or sought other avenues for sports
competition. Military training bases, YMCAs, and athletic clubs fielded
basketball squads that often faced off against even Division I teams as society
got back into shape.
Loyola had some great records (sometimes against teams with makeshift lineups) in the early years, and advanced to the point where Loyola was one of the top programs in college hoops once again. Haggarty was a former DePaul Head Coach and Athletic Director who bailed to coach Loyola and rebuild the program after the War.
You see, Haggarty left DePaul in 1942 to join
the Army. Ray Meyer got his coaching
spot and went to the NCAA Final Four in 1943, reached the NIT Final in 1944,
and won the NIT in 1945. Loyola had shut
down their program during those years. When
Haggerty got out of the Army in 1944, DePaul gave him the position of Athletic
Director and kept Meyer as Coach. The
next year, Haggerty jumped across the North Side and accepted the challenge of
re-instituting the Loyola program as a coach and recruiter.
Haggerty got a real star—forward Jack Kerris,
who was far and away the all time leading scorer at Loyola until the game
changed in the 1960s. The 1950 team was Haggerty’s last in Chicago– he had
health problems and went South to Loyola New Orleans. He died in New Orleans at the age of 51 in
The 1950 Ramblers had five high-scoring seniors (Ralph Klaerich, Ed Earle, Ed Dawson, Ben Bluitt, and Frank O’Grady), plus sophomore star Nick Kladis. Even though the team finished a middling 17-13, they beat #19 Oklahoma State at home, and Marquette, Syracuse, and Bowling Green on the road. They took #1 Holy Cross down to the wire on the road, losing 53-48. The team won 8 of its last 9 games down the stretch, including completion of a neutral sweep over DePaul and a home-road sweep over Dayton.
Yes, there were a lot of losses, but they were “quality
losses,” 65 years before the term
was invented: they lost at #1 Holy Cross, at #14 CCNY (who won both the NIT and
NCAA Tournaments that year), at St. Bonaventure in Buffalo, at Notre Dame, and
at home against #8 Duquesne.
After losing the NIT Title game by 1 point the
year before, this team– the first team put together after the total
dissolution of the program in 1943– took a glorious victory lap against the
country’s most challenging foes. But if
you think this ranking is just sentimentality, the good record against the
strong opponents earned the 1950 team the 10th highest SRS in program history.
The 1967-68 Loyola Ramblers: Undersized Overachievers
The 1967-68 Ramblers had some great
talent. The two top scorers were 6’5”
senior center Jim Tillman and 6’4” forward Corky Bell. Six-foot-four sophomore Wade Fuller was also
a double-digit scorer, but those were the three tallest players on the entire
roster—no one over 6’5”.
Sophomore guard Walter Robinson– a star player
who would score 1297 points in his career at Loyola, and younger brother of
Harlem Globetrotter and former Rambler Pablo Robinson—scored 13.7 per game in
his debut season. Two 5’11” senior guards, Doug Wardlaw and Art Oates got
significant playing time along with 6’4” backup center Coak Cannon.
Despite their diminutive stature, the
overachieving ’68 Ramblers beat the likes of Kansas, Georgia Tech, Marquette,
San Francisco, and BYU. They went 3-2
against tournament teams, and at 16-8 on selection day, were probably were the
last team in.
As a reward for a
just-barely-good-enough-to-make-the-tournament season, Loyola was matched up
with undefeated #1 ranked Houston in the play-in round, a team with arguably
the nation’s best player that year, 6’8” senior Elvin Hayes (1968’s NBA #1
Draft Pick). The Ramblers lost 94-76,
and would not return to the NCAA Tournament for 17 long years.
The 2021-22 Loyola Ramblers: Super Seniors in MVC Swan Song
25-8, 13-5 Missouri Valley (Tied 2nd
Four super seniors coming back for their last
go-around and two Ivy League grad transfers led an experienced squad under
first-year head coach Drew Valentine. But a curve ball put the whole season a
little off balance right from the beginning.
On Nov. 16, just before the third game of the year against Chicago
State, it was announced that Loyola would move to the A10 in the 2022-23
At first, the news was just a bit shocking.
Loyola had prospered excessively in the MVC, and in many eyes, the A10 was not
a significant enough jump in prestige or competition to warrant jeopardizing a
solid footing. But the MVC had recently announced that Belmont would be joining
the league in 2022-23, and there were likely more additions to come.
By the time the conference season rolled
around, the rest of the MVC– through podcasts, message boards, Twitter, and
other means– started to coalesce around a fervent “Beat Loyola”
theme. The Ramblers were never really accepted
by many stalwart MVC fans. Wichita State
fans cited Loyola joining the conference as one of the biggest factors in their
exit from the conference in 2017. Their
constant complaining and degradation of Loyola on the message boards was
sometimes shared by others.
Whether it was Big City hatred by a largely
rural Midwestern conference, the anti-Loyola drumbeat by Wichita State fans for
four years, or resentment that Loyola might want to leave a conference where
there were many fans of other teams who were hostile– the MVC came together as
one to pack their arenas and fire up their fans to send Loyola out with a
loss. By the time it came down to the
conference regular season championship game, everyone in the MVC (including the
refs) were rooting for Loyola’s demise.
The game that decided the regular season championship was an OT affair
at UNI with a jam-packed arena, where UNI got 42 trips to the foul line against
the team known to be careful about fouling.
The four super seniors (Lucas Williamson, Tate
Hall, Keith Clemons, and Aher Uguak) and transfers (Chris Knight and Ryan
Schweiger) on the ’22 Ramblers might have earned an at large bid with a KenPom
ranking in the high 30s, an AP ranking of #22 in mid-January, and non-con wins
over P6 teams like Arizona State, DePaul, and Vanderbilt. But the emphatic Arch Madness statement wins
(including a 23-point beat down of putative MVC regular season champion UNI,
holding them to 9 points below their previous season low in scoring) earned
Loyola a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Ramblers, an under-seeded Ohio State team returned key injured players to their roster just in time for the tournament and too many Loyola shots caught the rim the wrong way, resulting in a very ugly 54-41 first-round loss. It was the last college game for all the super seniors.
Watch for the top 10 teams in Loyola men’s basketball history coming next week. Comment on the message board at www.ramblermania.net/forum
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