By: Sammy Stava
The last team to beat No. 1 seeded Loyola was No 5 seeded Bradley back on January 31st. The two teams met again for an MVC Semifinal clash Saturday afternoon at the Scottrade Center, the first of two games between all Illinois schools.
There was a different outcome this time around, as Loyola won 62-54, but it was just the same Loyola team that we’ve seen since the start of February. They’re a team that wins. Porter Moser’s team is peaking at the right time, and it certainly looks like a dangerous team that nobody wants to play come NCAA Tournament, if the Ramblers indeed make it. They should, regardless of what happens on Sunday, when Loyola will be playing in the MVC Tournament Championship Game.
They’re a No. 1 seed in this tournament for a reason, and they’re an NCAA Tournament deserving team for a reason. It’s not easy to handle the pressure of being a No. 1 seed, playing in such a competitive conference tournament like this one. How competitive? Every game so far has been decided 10 points or less.
Clayton Custer bounced back from a rough MVC Tournament opener as he shared the team lead with 12 points. Marques Townes also had 12 points, and he’s looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament like he did with Farleigh Dickinson in the 2015-2016 season.
“It’s fun winning. That’s what we’ve done all year,” said Loyola’s Donte Ingram. And that’s why the belong in the NCAA Tournament.
Winners of nine consecutive games, Loyola improved to 27-5 on the season with a current RPI of 31 and KenPom ranking of 46.
Play a tough non-conference schedule? They did. The Ramblers played two NCAA Tournament like teams against Boise State and Florida, both on the road. Oh yeah, they also got the win at Florida.
It’s definitely a resume worthy of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. You can make the case last year that Illinois State was deserving of an at-large bid, but the Redbirds unfortunately didn’t make it in after losing to Wichita State in the MVC Tournament Championship Game.
Loyola hopes to avoid that, but they can erase all doubts with a win tomorrow. An MVC Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament will be on the line for the Ramblers Sunday at 1:00.