Loyola Chicago basketball 2021 Loyola Chicago Slays Another March Giant. but This Team39;s No .
Loyola Chicago basketball Loyola Chicago basketball Chicago Loyola Giant, Slays March but Another Team's No … This
Sun, 21 Mar 2021 12:00:00 -0700
Disrespected by the NCAA tournament committee, the Ramblers' defense made life hell for top-seeded Illinois—and it was no fluke
INDIANAPOLIS — Illinois was already in trouble, already in offensive disarray, already deep into an afternoon of stunning futility against the most beguiling defense in college basketball.
And at the 4:40 mark of the first half came the play that crystallized how ready No.
8 seed Loyola Chicago was for the ballyhooed No.
1 seed from downstate.
A lob pass went into 7’ 1”, 285-pound monolith Kofi Cockburn, who caught it just a few feet from the basket.
The pass went over the head of Loyola’s own pillar of strength, 6’ 9” 255-pound Cameron Krutwig, who was roaming around in perpetual defensive motion—hedging ball screens outside and banging bodies inside, gumming everything up.
This play looked like a win for Illinois, about to end in a backboard-shaking dunk for Cockburn.
But as the ball was in flight toward him, Loyola’s Lucas Williamson sprinted in from near the corner to position himself between Cockburn and the rim.
And then Krutwig applied the sandwich from the outside.
And then here came Marquise Kennedy flashing in from the opposite wing to encircle the Illini big man like Custer at Little Bighorn.
Cockburn still tried to go over the top of the smaller Ramblers for the basket.
But the 6’ 1” Kennedy rose up and swatted the shot away from behind, then scored at the other end 18 seconds later.
The score was Loyola 28, Illinois 16, and it became pretty clear where this was headed.
The Harry Potter scarves waved at the Loyola end of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the Illinois fans felt the dread of a soul-crushing loss growing at the other end.
The Ramblers were better, and the Ramblers were back in the business of slaying giants in the NCAA tournament.
Courtesy of NCAA Photos
The final score was 71–58.
There was nothing flukish about it.
The Illini, champions of the Big Ten tournament and a trendy national championship pick, never led for a single second.
Disrespected by the NCAA selection committee with a No.
8 seed after a dominant 24–4 season in the mid-major Missouri Valley Conference, Loyola made its statement loud and clear.
They’re happy to have 101-year-old nun Sister Jean back on the tournament trail with them, but they don’t need her to seek divine intervention.
They’re good enough as is to be in Indy long enough to pay taxes and register to vote.
“We’ve been there before,” said coach Porter Moser, and that was a key distinction.
The team the committee tried to stuff into a Cinderella outfit was actually far more experienced on this stage than the Illini.
“I’ve said this before as the coach of Loyola: it’s amazing what you can do when everyone believes.”
That was part of the mantra three years ago, when the Ramblers made an epic Final Four surge as a No.
But even that run didn’t have a victory quite like this one.
The ’18 team defeated teams seeded sixth, third, seventh and ninth to reach the national semifinals; this time, they took down a big dog.
There are just two players still around that played on the 2017–18 team, Krutwig and Williamson (a third, Aher Uguak, was on the roster but sat out as a transfer).
They are the heart-and-soul seniors, wholeheartedly having bought everything Moser was selling and now passing it down to the younger players as it was passed down to them.
This is tradition in action.
“That’s how it works,” Moser said.
“To sustain a program, you need the older guys pouring into the younger guys.”
And you need a coach to concoct the potion that the older guys pour.
Every leader in sports talks about the importance of “culture,” but Moser is among the foremost creators of it in college basketball.
What he did after the game Sunday was a prime example.
When the horn sounded, guard Braden Norris slammed the ball down jubilantly on the March Madness logo and the celebration began.
But after all the hugs and a group salutation of Sister Jean and the other fans, the Ramblers headed to the locker room.
That’s when Moser called them back out onto the floor to soak it in a little longer.
Michael Caterina/USA TODAY Sports
The team mobbed Krutwig during his postgame CBS interview, then hung out with Moser for his as well.
Then they took a longer curtain call with fans and families, who waved and cheered from the upper deck.
“I felt like against Georgia Tech (after beating the Yellow Jackets Friday) we just took off,” he said.
“I always tell them, ‘Let’s enjoy the moment, enjoy that win.’ Our fans were there.
We haven’t had fans all year, and they didn’t want to leave.
… I wanted them to stay out and enjoy it because that etches in your memory, that moment right there, and feeling all the work you’ve put in, all the effort you do to stay together, sacrifices you make, especially this year.”
Through the messiest season ever, Loyola has maintained the defensive DNA that made it such a tough out in 2018.
The Ramblers strangled the Missouri Valley Conference all season and have kept on suffocating opponents here in Indy.
Georgia Tech was held to its lowest point total (60) since Feb.
Then Illinois was held to its fewest points of the season, as the free-flowing Illini found themselves up against a team that gives up nothing in transition and is even tougher in the half court.
The Ramblers’ defensive gameplan and execution Sunday was basketball art.
Already a team that switches, rotates and helps expertly, the Ramblers took it up another level to shut down national Player of the Year candidate Ayo Dosunmu outside and to make Cockburn work for his points inside.
They guarded the way only Loyola guards.
“No one was doing anything out of their body, out of their mind,” Krutwig said.
“We just stuck to the game plan.”
They squeezed the driving lanes on Dosunmu in pick-and-roll situations, with help defenders stepping up and forcing him to pass or settle for perimeter shots.
He scored nine points, his fewest since Jan.
He took just 10 shots.
He committed six turnovers, seemingly unprepared for the flashing hands of the Ramblers that kept knocking the ball away from him.
And as noted above, they swarmed Cockburn when he caught the ball, forcing a guy who doesn’t pass much (five assists on the year) to give up the rock.
Cockburn finished with 21 points, but it was a lot of work.
Courtesy of NCAA Photos
The key to much of the defensive scheme was Krutwig.
All he had to do was take on two NBA-level talents in completely different ways, often on the same possession.
“I hold him to such a high standard,” Moser said.
“He'll make six great plays in a row and he'll mess up on one, and I'm about to lose my mind.
He always looks at me like, ‘Coach, settle down.’
“I think the reason why his defense is good is because he's got a mental motor.
He sees it starting to come and develop, and then he's ahead of the play, and I thought his defense on ball screens and his defense in the post was excellent.
… A huge assignment.
You're sitting there saying, ‘Krut, you've got to ball screen D against Ayo, an All-American but then you've got to post D against Kofi, an All-American in the post.
Have at it, big boy.’ “
He had at it.
And he won the day.
The fact that Krutwig resembles a Chicago bus driver more than an elite basketball player adds to the Loyola mystique.
Between the receding hairline, the unfortunate mustache and the large but unsculpted body, he’s not exactly first-guy-off-the-bus material.
Or first-guy-in-the-layup-line material, since he can’t jump over a comic book.
Basically, you wonder how he can play the same sport as Cockburn, much less get the better of the matchup.
And then you see him in deliberate, crafty action, a pachydermal prisoner of gravity who is a ballerina with the ball.
Krutwig plays point center, with the Loyola offense flowing through and around him.
Playing with his back to the basket much of the time he somehow sees all.
Handoffs, bounce passes and screens create opportunities for his teammates, which is how he’s racked up more than 300 career assists.
And when it’s time for him to score, the array of pivots, pump fakes and other post moves is a poor man’s Kevin McHale throwback.
This was his 129th college basketball game, and perhaps his finest: 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a career-high four steals.
The NBA has no interest in him, but he was the best player on the court against Illinois.
And he could be halfway to a second Final Four.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone but the selection committee.
If you watched Loyola play and took the labels off the teams, there’s no way the Ramblers would have been a No.
This isn’t the plucky little No.
11 seed coming out of nowhere like 2018.
“It's definitely a different story,” Krutwig said.
“We came into this tournament ranked like 17th in the country in the AP poll.
We got an 8 seed.
That's just the hand we were dealt.
We feel like we're one of the best teams in the country, and I think we showed that these last two games.”
Moser is certainly one of the best coaches in the country, which is why people are trying to wish him to Indiana or Minnesota or Marquette.
He could take one of those jobs, or he could continue building Butler By Lake Michigan.
For now, neither of those options matter.
The future can wait.
Porter Moser and Loyola are firmly established here, in the present—snatching souls with defense, soaking up the joy of March Madness, and not planning on leaving Indy until April.
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Loyola Chicago basketball Loyola Chicago basketball
Sun, 21 Mar 2021 12:00:00 -0700
Here are seven things to know about No
8 seed Loyola Chicago, which is halfway to its second Final Four run in four years after beating No
1 seed Illinois
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Complete tournament schedule
10 of the best duos to watch out for
INDIANAPOLIS – Fear the nun.
Loyola Chicago is back on the national stage.
She’s back on the national stage.
While the Ramblers were rolling past Georgia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament the other day, Sister Jean sat in the southwest corner of Hinkle Fieldhouse and talked of her future plans.
“We might go home after the second round and come back,” she said.
Come back was the operative part.
Yes, there’d be a reason to return to Indianapolis next weekend because the Ramblers would be in the Sweet 16, never mind they were eyeball-to-eyeball with Illinois, one of the bullies of the Big Ten.
Not a doubt in her mind, and remember, she’s the one who delivers the team prayer via cell phone 30 minutes before every tip-off in Indianapolis.
Her theme prior to Sunday’s game was to score early and make the Illini nervous.
For the record, Loyola never trailed and led for 38 minutes and 42 seconds.
Good luck with that in the Sweet 16, Oregon State or Oklahoma State.
No, Sister Jean might be 101 years old, but her prognostication and prayer skills haven’t lost a step.
With a defense that protects the 60-point barrier like a lion guards his dinner, with a coach who is quickly becoming one of the hottest names for any big fish with a job to fill, with a couple of seniors who know all about March magic because they’ve lived it, Loyola is on the move.
That 71-58 whipping the Ramblers put on Illinois did not have the slightest whiff of being an accident.
When they weren’t shutting down the Illini on one end, they were shredding them on the other.
They hadn’t beaten the Illini in more than 34 years but really, it looked Sunday as if they do it every season.
Loyola’s astonishing march to the 2018 Final Four is back in the public conscious.
“It’s amazing what happens when you get a group of young men who believe, and these guys believed,” coach Porter Moser said.
“This wasn’t just the switch that just flipped the last 48 hours.
These guys have invested in what we do and they believe in it.”
Since they’re clamoring for attention again, here are seven things to know about Loyola.
1. Loyola was not exactly a mystery guest Sunday.
The Ramblers had won 18 of their last 19 games, and the exception was a one-pointer in overtime to Drake.
In the latest polls, they were 17th in Associated Press and 16th with coaches, but that didn’t cut much ice with the NCAA selection committee.
Loyola was seeded eighth.
“That’s just the hand that we were dealt,” said Cameron Krutwig, one of the faces from 2018 who went for 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists against Illinois.
“We feel like we’re one of the best teams in the country and I think we showed that these last two games.”
Indeed, Loyola just played the champions of the ACC and Big Ten tournaments and won by 11 and 13 points.
Any more questions?
2. They take a very direct path to victory: Make it maddeningly difficult for the other team to score.
Loyola came into the Illini game allowing only 55.7 points a game, lowest in the nation.
In their 20-game surge, only two teams had broken 60; Drake scored 65 and Georgia Tech 60.
Illinois didn’t get there either, and this is the Illini bunch who just scored 90, 82 and 91 in the Big Ten tournament.
They weren’t allowed to force the pace, they weren’t permitted to get to spots where they could comfortably attack.
“When they couldn’t get out and run and couldn’t find the gaps in transition, maybe that frustrated them a little bit.” Krutwig said.
One of the final dagger plays was when Illinois All-American Ayo Dosunmu was trying to make something happen, and had the ball poked away – by Krutwig.
It was Dosunmu’s sixth turnover.
The Ramblers weren’t surprised.
They do that all time to opponents.
“I guess people kind of forgot or something but we were the No.
1 defense in the country this season,” Krutwig said.
“I guess people chalk it up to maybe being a mid-major or something, but we play hard, play the right way and we follow the scheme.”
If their current points against average holds, it’ll be the lowest at Loyola since 1950.
3. The 26-4 record is the best for the Ramblers since 1963.
They won the national championship that season.
Know one of the teams they beat in that tournament? Illinois.
4. Loyola is not exactly Kentucky or Kansas when it comes to NCAA tournament appearances, this being only their seventh.
But when the Ramblers show up, stay out of their way.
In those seven trips, they’ve won a national title, gone to a Final Four, and advanced to two other Sweet 16s.
5. They’ve become something of a sensation in Chicago.
Loyola had one of the loudest crowds of the tournament against Georgia Tech, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse had a lot of maroon Sunday, even with limited attendance.
After a season of empty stands and no noise for their efforts, the Ramblers weren’t about to let this chance get away.
They stayed and savored the moment, even though officials wanted to scurry them away so workers could start sanitizing the place for the next game.
And that was OK with their coach.
“Our fans were there.
We haven’t had fans all year, and they didn’t want to leave,” Moser said.
“Security was going to have to make them leave, but they were still there, and I wanted them to stay out and enjoy it because that etches in your memory, that moment right there.”
And he certainly knows.
6. Moser is building quite a resume for schools further up the food chain to go chasing after.
Start with this: He’s now 11-2 in national postseason tournaments.
Loyola has won 99 games the past four seasons.
Nobody else in the state of Illinois has won more than 75.
And he’s brought sizzle to the fan base in Chicago, which can get particular about where it spends its sports passion.
“I was told this a lot when I took the job 10 years ago.
They said ‘it’s a pro town, it’s a pro town,’” Moser said.
“I said, ‘I’m from there.
It’s a sports town, it’s a sports town.’ They’ve embraced us for years now.
“You want to be relevant.
You want to have excitement.
It means a lot for Loyola, where we were to where we are now, and we’re not done.”
7. Krutwig and Lucas Williamson are the seniors who have won 99 games and seen about everything, including the Final Four.
Their wisdom means something, especially this month.
“It’s a little more impressive and resonates when their peers say it,” Moser said.
Krutwig is the first Loyola player in 36 years to be first, second or third team All-American.
His 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists carried the battle to Illinois.
Williamson had 14 points.
“That Final Four run will hold a special place in my heart but this one feels special-er and sweeter in the moment because I’m here, because I’m in the present right now,” Krutwig said.
Things are good when you’re asked to compare deep runs in March.
Loyola is on the march again in March and Sister Jean is along for another ride, now in her second century.
Doesn’t get much special-er than that.
Mike Lopresti is a member of the US Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, Ball State journalism Hall of Fame and Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
He has covered college basketball for 43 years, including 39 Final Fours.
He is so old he covered Bob Knight when he had dark hair and basketball shorts were actually short.
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– March 21, 2021
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