Michigan is set to do battle with the proclaimed “team of destiny” in the Final Four, as they’ll be going up against Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.
When facing a team with a somewhat “low profile” up until the tournament, information on their program, past and present, and their chances against the Wolverines is vital information.
That’s why we sat down with Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun Times, who covers the team on a daily basis.
Josh LaFond: Tell us a little about the Ramblers. What has the program looked like over the last few years?
Madeline Kenney: Loyola jumped from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference before the 2013-14 season. In their first season in the Valley, the Ramblers went 4-14 in conference play. Last season, Loyola looked strong in nonconference play. The Ramblers steamrolled some of their competitors and entered their Valley schedule 10-3. From there, the wheels fell off the wagon. Loyola finished 18-14 overall after going 8-10 in the conference. To make matters worse, Loyola lost star guard Milton Doyle to graduation. In coach Porter Moser’s first three seasons at Loyola, the Ramblers won a measly 32 games. This season alone, Moser’s seventh, they won 32 (and they’re not done yet).
Josh: Going into the season, was this run the Ramblers are on expected?
Madeline: Not at all. Donte Ingram, Aundre Jackson and Clayton Custer were expected to play well, but they were picked to finish third in the Valley in a preseason poll. Loyola’s Athletic Director Steve Watson has been patient with Moser. Last season when Loyola extended his contract, people were scratching their heads, asking why? He hadn’t accomplished much except for a CBI tournament win, which in retrospect doesn’t mean a whole lot. Obviously now, the contract extension appears to have been the right move.
Josh: It wouldn’t be an interview without asking about Sister Jean. Has she always been a campus celebrity or has she just now stepped into this role?
Madeline: Yes, she has. A pretty funny story: She polices the shuttle line at Loyola’s Water Tower (downtown) Campus. Sister Jean would call out people who cut in line, including men’s basketball players. That’s not the end of it, though, everyone has a Sister Jean story at Loyola. I wrote a column regarding her here: https://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/sister-jean-loyola-chicago-march-madness-lovable-celebrity/
Josh: What makes the Rambler offense tick?
Madeline: Loyola plays unselfishly and does a good job moving the ball. On any given night, a different player can step up, which makes them extremely deadly because opponent’s defense can’t key in on or double team one specific player. This has been proven during March Madness. If it’s not Donte Ingram, it’s Clayton Custer. If it’s not Custer, it’s Marques Townes and if it’s not Townes than it’s Ben Richardson. Who will step up for Michigan? We’ll have to wait and see (my bet is on Aundre Jackson having a big game).
Josh: What’s one thing that Michigan does (on offense or defense) that presents a problem to Loyola-Chicago?
Madeline: Loyola has been undersized against every opponent it’s played and there’s no difference against Michigan. The Wolverines are basically the Ramblers of high-major programs. The two teams play very similar, but Michigan has the edged because it’s a more athletic team. The Moritz Wagner and Cameron Krutwig matchup should be something to watch.
Josh: Give us the keys to victory for Loyola
Madeline: Here are my three keys: Be solid on the perimeter. Don’t get distracted by the hype of the Final Four. Believe in miracles.
Josh: Who wins?
Madeline: I’m Chicago media (and Loyola alum). Although I’m an unbiased reporter after watching Loyola through this tournament, I’m taking Ramblers over the Wolverines 67-63.
Josh: Who brings home the national title this year?
Madeline: If we’re talking about my bracket, that was destroyed a long time ago. Looking at this Final Four, I’d really like to see a Loyola-Kansas National Championship game, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I think Villanova will take home this year’s hardware.
- I’d like to extend my special thanks to Madeline Kenney of the Sun-Times, and to Matt for setting this up. For more info on the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, head over to www.chicago.suntimes.com.