A thrilling 2018 Missouri Valley Tournament came to a close Sunday afternoon at the Scottrade Center between No. 1 seeded Loyola and No. 3 seeded Illinois State. It ended with the Ramblers doing their usual thing, and that is winning basketball games.
For the first time since 1985, Loyola is heading to the NCAA Tournament as the Ramblers earned an automatic bid to the Big Dance in convincing fashion. How impressive was it? Well, it was the only game in the entire Missouri Valley Tournament that was decided by more than 10 points, in a 65-49 win. The Ramblers made a statement all weekend long, living up to the pressure as the No. 1 seed in this Arch Madness, plus winning three games in three days.
Porter Moser has won the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship for the second time. He did it as a player in the 1988-1989 season with Creighton, joining Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) as the only person to win Arch Madness as a player and a coach.
This one was for Rick Majerus. “He obviously had such an impact on my life. Very, very blessed. I’ve thought about him a lot while I’m here,” Moser said when asked about winning this conference tournament in St. Louis for Majerus.
For some of the players, this is for Chicago. “You dream of times like this. It’s been a goal of ours for a long time, and to make it comes true just feels unreal,” Donte Ingram said, who was voted Arch Madness’ Most Outstanding Player on the MVC All-Tournament team.
Last year, it was Northwestern that got the city of Chicago’s attention by making it into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Now, after a long drought, it’s Loyola’s turn to steal the spotlight in the city of Chicago.
Up next for Loyola (28-5) is the NCAA Tournament, where the Ramblers will head into the Big Dance having won 10 consecutive games. They haven’t lost since January 31st.
Will they be a dangerous out? You bet. They are tough, experienced, and well-coached. December 6th was an indication, when they won AT Florida.
What’s the key to this Loyola team? Their starting point guards Clayton Custer, as the Ramblers improved to 26-2 with him in the lineup this season. The only two losses with him in the lineup have been road games. The Ramblers are 2-3 without him in the lineup this season, which just goes to show how valuable he is to this team.
Come next Sunday – Selection Sunday, Loyola will know their fate for the NCAA Tournament. They’re officially in, now the question is when and where the Ramblers will be playing.
For now, they’ll be partying like it’s 1985.