Tag Archives: Midwestern City

The 25 Best Loyola Men’s Basketball Teams of All Time: Part 2 (#16-#20)

The countdown of the top 25 Loyola men’s basketball teams of all time continues. The previous teams in the countdown are here.

No. 20

The 1981-82 Loyola Ramblers:  Four NBA Draft Picks, Lost in Conference Final

17-12, 8-4 Midwest City (3rd Place)

Sullivan won 149 games as head coach from 1980-1989

Gene Sullivan’s second season at Loyola resulted in his first of four winning seasons in a row, and the second among seven winning conference seasons in a row.  The 1981-82 team featured two future NBA players and third round and fourth round NBA picks.

The Ramblers lost to #10 Minnesota by one point, and Illinois by four points.  They beat Northwestern, SIU, Creighton, and Northern Illinois; the Ramblers beat both Xavier and Butler x3 (home, road, and neutral in the conference tournament).  It was a great season, but the Ramblers couldn’t get past Evansville, who beat Loyola at home, on the road, and in the final of the conference tournament by the score of 81-72. 

Wayne Sappleton averaged 22.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game (second in the nation in rebounding for the second year in a row), and earned a 2nd round NBA pick by the New Jersey Nets.  Point guard Darius Clemons, who set a Loyola career assists record of 703 assists and scored 1610 points in four years, was drafted in the fourth round of the NBA Draft by the San Diego Clippers. Alfredrick Hughes (1st round in 1985) and Andre Battle (3rd round 1985) were freshmen on that team averaging 17.0 ppg and 7.7 ppg respectively.

No. 19

The 1977-78 Loyola Ramblers:  Big Game Performers with Road Woes

16-11 Overall

How could a 16-11 team be picked as one of the Top 20 teams at Loyola?  Well, when you beat Minnesota (with future NBA star Kevin McHale), Indiana State (with future NBA legend Larry Bird), #2 Marquette (the defending national champion), and #14 Georgetown, you get known as a pretty strong team.

NBA 1st Round Pick Larry Knight

The ’78 Ramblers had future NBA player Andre Wakefield, NBA first round draft pick Larry Knight, 6’8 center Houston Lloyd, and 6’8’ forward Rod Callihan.  All of them averaged in double figure points, and for the time they were an very tall team that shared the ball better than most teams with big men.

Unfortunately, the ’78 Ramblers didn’t travel well. Loyola was 5-8 on the road, dropping contests at Wisconsin (second to last in the Big 10), Valpo, and Ohio University.  The ’78 Ramblers also lost two home games to opponents they should have beaten for a shot at postseason, Toledo and Bradley.

No. 18

The 2018-19 Loyola Ramblers:  Conference Champs, NIT First Round

20-14, 12-6 Missouri Valley Conference (tied for 1st Place)

Clayton Custer, Cam Krutwig, Coach Moser, and
Marques Townes led the 2019 Ramblers. Photo: Chicago Magazine

Coming off their Final Four season, the Ramblers were adjusting to the loss of Aundre Jackson, Donte Ingram, and Ben Richardson while trying to integrate Tate Hall, Cooper Kaifes, and Aher Uguak into the rotation.  Loyola tied with Drake atop the MVC with a 12-6 record, and therefore earned an automatic bid to the NIT.

The MVC was having a down year—Loyola’s 131 KenPom ranking was tops in the league.  The Ramblers only had four games against Top 100 Ken Pom teams all year—a last-second home loss to Furman (KenPom 59) and blowout losses to Nevada, Maryland, and Creighton (in the postseason NIT).  A better schedule might have helped the Ramblers overcome the weakness of the MVC that season, but an injury to Lucas Williamson (LUC was 10-8 in the 18 games he missed) and some blowout losses to not-so-great teams (a 67-48 loss at last place Evansville and a 70-35 thrashing at Missouri State) sank the KenPom.

Bradley upset the Ramblers 53-51 in the Semifinals at Arch Madness, and Loyola was assigned to visit Creighton in the NIT– where their 70-61 loss was not as close as the score.  Marques Townes won the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year award, giving the top individual player award in the conference to a Rambler for the second straight year.

No. 17

The 2006-07 Loyola Ramblers: High Expectations Not Quite Met

21-11, 10-6 Horizon League (3rd Place)

This was the Loyola team we thought was going to go to the tournament. They were preseason favorites in the Horizon League, and senior Blake Schilb was named preseason Player of the Year.  Everybody was back from the 19-win team the year before, including J.R. Blount and Leon Young who had been so impressive as freshmen. But something else showed up—the injury bug and the sophomore slump.

(L-R) Blake Schilb, Kye Pattrick, Majak Kou, Tom Levin, and Brandon Woods surround team chaplain Sr. Jean Dolores Schmidt

Team leader Blake Schilb got banged up and missed a game after only playing 15 minutes in a loss to Youngstown State. Young missed six games and was plagued by injuries the rest of his career. Blount was one of only four Ramblers who played in every game, but his field goal percentage fell from .459 to .408.  Majak Kou’s points edged up with more minutes as a full time starter, but his rebounds, steals, assists, and made threes declined.

Toward the end of the season, things started to fall into place, however. Loyola won eight of nine games going into their Horizon League tournament semifinal against #18 Butler. The Ramblers had defeated #15 Butler a week and a half earlier at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler and Loyola split two OT games during the regular season, and the third OT game was neck and neck again when Loyola had a chance to win, inbounding the ball with a tick or two left, and Blount wasn’t able to get a shot to go. The final was 67-66.

Loyola finished the year with a KenPom of 84, higher than several NIT at large teams. If the Ramblers had defeated Saint Louis at home (a game they gave away in the final minute with a turnover), or beat Butler in either of their two OT losses, an NIT invite or better would have been likely.  The 2006-07 Ramblers were the only Loyola team to win 20 games OR win 10 conference games for a 30-year span between 1985 and 2015, so they were an important team for the die-hard fans who suffered through a long, excruciating postseason drought.

No. 16

The 1979-80 Loyola Ramblers:  Jerry Lyne’s Magnum Opus

19-10, 5-0 Midwest City (1st Place)

Coach Jerry Lyne’s final season and the Ramblers’ first season in the newly-formed Midwest City Conference resulted in a postseason bid, as Loyola was tabbed for the NIT after losing the conference tournament final to Oral Roberts. 

Coach Jerry Lyne was the assistant who took over as head coach in 1975.

Senior shooting guard Leroy Stampley led Loyola with 20.2 points per game, while junior center Kevin Sprewer added 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds.  Stampley was drafted in the fourth round of the 1980 NBA Draft, and Sprewer went in the sixth round of the ’81 Draft.  Sophomore point guard Darius Clemons scored 15.6 ppg while averaging 4.0 assists per game.   

Loyola beat MVC Champ Bradley twice (at home and at a neutral site) and beat MVC runner-up Creighton at home. Add wins over A-10 Champ Rutgers, and top MAC teams: Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois. But when it came to the future Great Midwest teams, Loyola had trouble—two fairly close losses to Top 10 ranked DePaul, a loss to Marquette, and a loss to Cincinnati.

These days, a regular season conference championship locks up an NIT bid, even if the team falters in the conference tournament.  My estimated KenPom ranking for this team was 110, based on the offensive and defensive team ranking and schedule strength.  It was the first year of the fledgling Midwestern City Conference (Loyola, Butler, Evansville, Xavier, Oklahoma City, Oral Roberts); the NCAA had a 32-team field that year.

Coach Lyne took over the team in 1975 and retired at the end of the 1979-80 season; this team marked his high water mark as head coach.

The countdown of the top 25 Loyola men’s basketball teams of all time continues in a few days with the teams ranked from 11 to 15. Comment on the Ramblermania Message Board.

The 25 Best Loyola Men’s Basketball Teams of All Time: Part 1 (#21-#25)

Some folks around college hoops seem to have the impression that Loyola is some kind of newbie in college basketball, mostly because no one heard much about the Ramblers from 1987 or so to 2018. If you go 31 years—a whole mature generation– with nothing to show for it but six seasons above .500 and a CBI Title, and people tend to forget about you.

Real Loyola fans– and real college basketball fans—surely know we had a National Championship in 1963.  Maybe they’ve even heard about how impactful, and consequential that championship was, thanks to the book “Ramblers” by Michael Lenehan, the film “The Loyola Project,” and a crazy Final Four appearance in Loyola’s first NCAA Tournament trip after a 33-year absence.

But the 1963 National Championship and its civil rights and social change effects are only part of the story.  Loyola’s place in college basketball is a lot more enduring.  Some of the great teams from long before 1963 also had lasting impact.

Since I became a Rambler fan at the beginning of the lowest point of the program’s success and started Ramblermania a few years later, I’ve made it part of the mission of this site to make sure people recognize that Loyola’s long ago success, its civil rights contributions, and historic place in college basketball isn’t forgotten.  Some of you might know several of these teams and have some recollections about them you might want to share.  Maybe the historic past of Loyola basketball is completely unknown to some of the newer fans and our new conference-mates in the A-10.

Here is my ranking of Loyola’s 25 best teams in program history.

NOTE:  This is actually a semi-scientific/mathematical list.  I took the SRS ranking, KenPom numbers (or estimates based on points for/points against and schedule strength from the pre-KenPom days) and added bonus points based on a scale of conference and post-season tournament success levels. Then I put it through a spreadsheet weighting the various factors (my personal judgment as a longtime fan), and this is the result.


The 2001-02 Loyola Ramblers: One Shot from the Tournament

17-13, 9-7 Horizon (4th place tie)

This was one of my favorite teams back in the day, because they broke apart stereotypes about the program.  This team remains—still, after several recent trips to the NCAA Tournament– the only Loyola team ever to win its first 6 games in conference play. It was the first team since 1987 (15 seasons) to finish above .500.  Filled with players who defied expectations, like 5’8” point guard David Bailey, 6’6” center and Navy veteran Donyale Bush, defensive ace Louis Smith, explosive 6’8” forward Corey Minnifield, Bradley transfer Kevin Clancy, former walk-on Jonathan Freeman, and Greek three-point specialist Vasilis Tsimpliavidis, wow, did they change a lot of perceptions about Loyola basketball.

David Bailey led the 2001-02 Ramblers with 21.7 ppg

In their opening game, they played Marquette very close on the road in Dwayne Wade’s first college game.  On Dec. 18, 2001, the Ramblers broke a 24-game road losing streak dating back to 1999, featuring Loyola legend Red Rush on radio play-by-play from St. Mary’s in Moraga, Calif.  On Feb. 20, they beat Butler at home as the Bulldogs were gaining notice as a mid-major power; it was Loyola’s first win over Butler in the last nine games. 

Then, after nine straight years of losing their first round conference tournament game, Loyola knocked off higher-seeded Wright State, and then beat Wisconsin-Green Bay, who unexpectedly knocked off Butler.  That matched Loyola with UIC in an intra-city, brother vs. brother showdown for a tournament bid.  It went to overtime, of course, and the Ramblers lost on a late fall-away basket by Cedric Banks followed by a desperation heave from Kevin Clancy that skipped off the top of the rim.

I was lucky enough to see 25 of this team’s 30 games that year in person.  Very exciting, and great to see the players demand better almost every game.  It was the beginning, I think, of higher expectations after a long, long period of terrible basketball.

No. 25

The 1983-84 Loyola Ramblers:  Lots of Talent, Thin Resume and Some Bad Breaks

20-9, 10-4 Midwestern City Conference (2nd place)

Loyola has only had 18 20-win seasons in their history (five of them in the last five years), and this 20-win campaign was against a light schedule.  Future NBA player and first round pick Alfredrick Hughes wanted to do just about everything.  He played 39.7 minutes per game, took about 23 shots per game, and led the team in rebounds, steals, and free throw attempts.  He scored a then-record 800 points in the season to average 27.6 points per game and averaged 8.2 rebounds per game.   Loyola’s third-best scoring and rebounding option, Andre Battle, missed 15 of 29 games that season.  Carl Golston was in his first year after transferring from Wisconsin, and he added 19.7 points and 5.8 assists per game.

It was a weak year for the Midwest City Conference, and Loyola’s best non-con win was a two-point win over middle of the Big 8 Colorado in Boulder.  Losing badly to Xavier in the second round of the conference tournament left the Ramblers at 20-9 overall, 10-4 in conference– second to Oral Roberts.  This was also the year before the NCAA expanded the tournament to 64 teams, so the Ramblers were not really a tournament-worthy team, especially given the weakness of the conference that season. If the conference had been a little stronger, maybe an NIT bid?

No. 24

The 1982-83 Loyola Ramblers:  Regular Season Champs, Coming Up Just Short

19-11, 12-2 Midwestern City Conference (1st Place)

Here’s another Rambler team that was on the verge of an NCAA Tournament.  The 82-83 Ramblers came within a point of beating Illinois in Champaign, beat Cal, Cincinnati, and DePaul; and they reached the final of the Midwestern City Conference tournament—where they lost to Xavier, 82-76.

This team formed a prototype for Coach Gene Sullivan’s teams through the middle to the end of the decade…  Alfredrick Hughes and Andre Battle were in their sophomore seasons, averaging 25.8 and 11.8 points per game respectively. Six-foot-seven center Chris Rogers, an Oklahoma City transfer, averaged almost a double-double with 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Two 6’3” guards, Greg Williams and Calvin Young were the main ball distributors, with Wisconsin transfer point guard Carl Golston sitting out a transfer year.

No. 23

The 1986-87 Loyola Ramblers:  Solid Offense, Token Defense

16-13, 8-4 Midwestern Collegiate (1st Place tie)

This was the last winning team for Loyola (either in conference or overall) for 15 years, as the Gene Sullivan era was winding down. The team had great talent—Bernard Jackson (in his last season after transferring from Wichita State) was 3rd in the league in scoring with 22.8 ppg, and Andre Moore won the Conference Player of the Year Award by averaging 20.8 ppg and leading the league in rebounds and blocks.  But the defensive will wasn’t there; Loyola last in the league in points allowed, and 256th of all 289 Division I teams. 

Andre Moore was drafted by the Denver Nuggets as the 31st overall pick (8th in the 2nd round), finishing the college season with more rebounds per game than #1 NBA pick David Robinson.  Keith Carter was in his sophomore year of eligibility and had his best season on offensive efficiency.  Evansville (in the senior season of future coach Marty Simmons) had two future NBA players and tied the Ramblers for the top spot in regular season play, but third place Xavier won the tournament at the beginning of their long run of success. Xavier’s 1987 tournament appearance was their 4th ever in school history; the Musketeers have made 24 appearances in the 35 years since.

No. 22

The 2014-15 Loyola Ramblers:  CBI Champs

24-13, 8-10 Missouri Valley  (6th Place)

For a program that hadn’t been to a postseason tournament for 30 years, the chance to participate in a C-level tournament was a godsend.  The 2015 CBI was one of the weaker fields in the short history of the CBI, but Loyola made the absolute best of it by winning every game in front of them.

The Ramblers began the 2014-15 season by winning the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic by defeating Texas Tech and Boise State.  After winning at Evansville on Jan. 8, Loyola was 12-3 overall and 2-1 in MVC play (the one conference loss was by single digits at #23 UNI).  But in the next game at home against #15 Wichita State, Milton Doyle injured his ankle, and Loyola lost 9 of their next 13 games.  Doyle returned to play in the last two regular season conference games (both wins), and two games in Arch Madness (an emphatic, record-setting win against 3-seed Indiana State, and a loss to #11 UNI).

In the CBI Tournament, Loyola’s supporting cast—senior stalwart Christian Thomas, juco transfers Montel James and Earl Peterson, three-point specialist Devon Turk, and freshmen contributors Ben Richardson and Donte Ingram—made the lion’s share of the scoring with Doyle (still on the mend) providing leadership and guidance.  It was a fantastic finish for a team that started off so well but was derailed by injury.  The experience of playing in a postseason tournament proved to be immensely valuable three years later.

No. 21

The 1957-58 Loyola Ramblers:  A Team That Gelled a Little Too Late

16-8 Overall

The ’58 Ramblers began their season in late ’57 beating up on the little guys and getting trounced by the good teams.  From December 2, 1957 to January 4, 1958, Loyola beat five non-University Division teams (the contemporary equivalent of Division I) by an avg of 30.2, but lost all of their four games to University Division squads by an average of 16.8 points.  

Art McZier gets a rebound against eventual National Champion Kentucky.

On Jan. 11, the Ramblers won at Air Force, then followed it up with home wins against Western Michigan, Eastern Kentucky, and Marquette.  By February 15, the Ramblers were sitting at 9-7 and ready for their biggest home game of the year, Adolph Rupp’s #12 Kentucky at Chicago Stadium.  Kentucky creamed the Ramblers by 33 points on Dec. 30 at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, so not many folks expected a Loyola win. 

With the Kentucky ahead with just ticks left on the clock, Loyola’s Frank Hogan (the future headmaster of Chicago Latin School) inbounded the ball to Art McZier, who fired a hook shot for the winning margin at the buzzer.   After knocking off Kentucky, the Ramblers finished off the season by winning three of their next four to finish at 16-8.  UK went on to win the National Championship, marking the second time (1949 was the other) that Loyola defeated Kentucky during a UK national championship season.

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The countdown continues with teams 16-20 on Wednesday.