Congratulations to the Loyola Ramblers, you have established yourself as the top tier college basketball program in the state of Illinois right now. Reaching the sweet 16 in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments, the Ramblers proved that the 2018 Final Four run was no fluke.
They thwarted the top seed Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of March Madness, and in our exclusive with new coach Drew Valentine (who was an assistant then), he explained exactly how. What a monumental upset it truly was!
With Porter Moser now off to Oklahoma, Valentine, 30, takes over and becomes the youngest head coach in all of Division 1.
“The mindset is chase championships, we have a championship standard,” Valentine said during our exclusive at the Chicago College Basketball preseason luncheon.
“That standard isn’t going to change just because I’m the new coach and we got some new faces. Now am I saying we’re going to win the Missouri Valley Championship or Battle For Atlantis championship, no, but we’ve got great leadership and experience, we return eight of our top nine scorers back from a Sweet Sixteen team and these guys are hungry for more.”
The one guy who doesn’t come back, among the top nine, is Cameron Krutwig and he’ll be severely missed. Say what you want about his physical appearance (and a lot of people have said many derogatory things, because the absolute last thing he looks like is a professional athlete), but he was the best player in the MVC last year.
He’s also collecting a paycheck playing in Belgium right now, so what else is there to say.
Loyola Ramblers Circle the Date
The Blue Demons host Loyola in the Red Line Rivalry this season, which takes place on December 4. They’ll face Michigan State, you know that program that once had this one guy, who is a brother of someone important to the LUC program, on Nov 22 in the Battle for Atlantis (sorry, we don’t spell words with numbers, because you know, we’re not a six-year-old).
We’ll have more on Denzel Valentine, and MSU, from our Drew Valentine exclusive, later. Loyola only gets Drake , considered their main rival for the Missouri Valley conference crown, just once and it’s at home, Feb 19. The hotline bling for tickets will no doubt go off for that one.
Missouri State (Jan 22 H, Feb. 6 A) and Indiana State (Dec. 1 H, Jan. 15 A) will be in the mix too.
Loyola Ramblers Bottom Line
LUC should win the league again, and they should do so decisively enough that they won’t need to also win Arch Madness in order to get into the dance. They’ll overcome the loss of Krutwig by relying on a strong, smart veteran backcourt.
They were no. 1 nationally in scoring defense last season, so if they keep that up, and their savvy guards don’t turn it over, they should be in every game until the very end. Led by Lucas Williamson, Loyola’s calling card should be defense again this term.
“We play kind of two point guards on the floor at all times,” Valentine said.
“Within our offense we want all the four guards that we play to all have some sort of point guard ability. Braden Norris is as tough they come, he takes care of the ball, he makes shots, he knows what I want.
And then you got Marquise Kennedy, a Chicago product who is so explosive, so talented. He’s really improved his body, put on about ten pounds of muscle, up to 190, and he’s somebody we’ve just been trying to get to continue to grow with his motor, everyday.”
2021-22 College Basketball Season Preview Series
Illinois Illini Final Four Odds Northwestern DePaul Loyola Purdue
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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