Loyola-Chicago will be the fourth lowest-seeded team to play in an NCAA Tournament Final Four, joining fellow 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in 2011, George Mason in 2006, and LSU in 1986, according to the Washington Post.
Besides the now notorious Sister Jean, the team chaplain, who powers these history-making Ramblers?
There's the coach, Porter Moser, who guided the program's transition into one of the nation's best conferences while putting together one of the greatest improvements of any Division I program over one season to another, achieving several milestones not seen at Loyola in three decades, according to the Loyola-Chicago Athletics Department.
There are also top players Clayton Custer and Donte Ingram.
Capsules on Moser and Loyola seasons and players he guided, besides current players, are below.
This season, Moser became the sixth coach in Loyola history to win 100 games at the school.
"During his first six seasons in Rogers Park, the Naperville, Ill., native has changed the program's culture and reestablished recruiting in the Chicago area, all while also successfully navigating the transition to the Missouri Valley Conference," reads Moser's current Loyola-Chicago athletics biography. "Loyola's 57 wins over the last three seasons are the most over a three-year period in three decades."
In 2015, Moser led the Ramblers to the 2015 College Basketball Invitational title in Loyola's first postseason berth since 1985, guiding it to seven wins over Power 5, Big East, and Mountain West conference schools. He also posted the most wins since 1985 (24) and helped Loyola earn its first Associated Press top 25 votes since it went all the way to the Sweet 16 in 1985, according to Loyola athletics.
Last year, Moser guided the Ramblers to an 18-win season and their best placement in the MVC standings since affiliating with the conference and defeating strong teams in Washington State and San Diego State, Loyola athletics reported.
Milton Doyle, the first Chicago Public League recruit to go to Loyola in a decade, excelled under Moser's tutelage and departed as one of the program's all-time greats. (Doyle is now in the NBA.) The swiss-army knife of a guard not only became the first player in program history to earn first-team all-MVC accolades but also was the first Rambler since Blake Schilb in 2007 to earn first-team National Association of Basketball Coaches all-district recognition. He also was invited to the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Doyle finished his career in the top 10 in school history in both points (1,606) and assists (459), according to Loyola athletics.
Ingram is also among Moser's Chicago Public League recruits. Ingram had a breakthrough season last year, nearly doubling his scoring average while establishing himself as a third-team all-MVC and MVC most-improved team selection, Loyola athletics reported.
Aundre Jackson, a junior college transfer, got used to Division I basketball instantaneously, being honored as an MVC sixth man of the year and a member of the MVC all-newcomer all-bench teams while setting a Loyola single-season record for field goal percentage (.669).
Off the court, Custer and Ben Richardson were hailed as MVC men's basketball scholar-athlete team selections, making Loyola the only program in the conference with multiple first-team honorees, Loyola athletics reported.
In 2015-16, Loyola notched a victory against Creighton, its first over the Bluejays since 1981, got a win at Arch Madness for the third straight season, and took Wichita State down to the wire at the MVC Tournament in St. Louis. Moser developed Montel James into a second-team all-MVC selection as the senior forward tied a Valley Tournament record since the playoff moved to St. Louis by grabbing 17 rebounds against Bradley.
In the 2014-15 season, Loyola was the surprise team of the Missouri Valley, exceeding expectations every step of the way in posting their best season in 30 years. The Ramblers' 24 wins were their most since 1985, and their RPI improvement of over 200 spots was third-best among Div. I programs.
A well-balanced and talented roster jelled very early in the season, and the Ramblers wrapped up the non-conference part of their schedule with victories over Texas Tech and NCAA Tournament team Boise State to take the Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic. Tournament MVP Doyle was sidelined for 12 conference games, but Loyola stuck together and gave the best version of themselves for the year at the end of the season.
A key, late-season road win at Drake thrust the Ramblers into Friday night quarterfinals at Arch Madness. Loyola put together a dominant performance, leading by as many as 39 points before settling for an Arch Madness-record 28-point victory before getting tripped up the next night in the semifinals by 11th-ranked Northern Iowa, Loyola athletics reported.
The Ramblers' 19 victories led to their berth to the College Basketball Invitational, their first postseason appearance since the team advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1985.
"Loyola made the most of the opportunity, their brand of efficient and unselfish basketball propelling the Ramblers to a sweep of Louisiana-Monroe in the best-of-three championship series," Loyola athletics reported. "The championship sweep put them in a selective company, as they are just the second team in the history of the tournament to sweep the title series, joining Shaka Smart's VCU team."
Christian Thomas, Moser's first recruit to Loyola, capped an outstanding season by earning honorable mention all-MVC honors. Thomas graduated as one of just 10 players in school history to rack up over 1,300 career points and over 600 career rebounds and also sits third on the Ramblers' career field goal percentage list. Despite just finishing his junior season, Devon Turk became Loyola's all-time leader in three-pointers made while Doyle came back from injury in the regular season finale and was a catalyst for the Ramblers' postseason run.
Newcomers Earl Peterson, James, Ingram, and Richardson were all key contributors.
"Moser put together a deep and versatile group of talented performers," Loyola athletics reported.
James was a member of the MVC all-newcomer team, while Peterson was one of the team's best clutch players and was named CBI MVP. Ingram was one of the team's biggest weapons off the bench, while Richardson's savvy and tough-nosed play made him an integral part of the team's success.
Success did not come overnight but Moser and the Ramblers' success last season was due, in part, to the 2013-14 season, Loyola's first in the Valley. The leader of that group was Doyle, who became just the seventh player in Missouri Valley history – and first since Doug McDermott – to win both the MVC newcomer and freshman of the year awards. Doyle was just one of three underclassmen who were big contributors that season, with Jeff White establishing himself at the point guard position and Turk continuing to provide shooting and scoring off the bench, with the sixth man earning a spot on the MVC all-bench team. In addition, Thomas continued to improve, putting together another terrific campaign while adding new elements to his game.
"As a result, Thomas was one of just three MVC players to rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage, joining Wichita State's Cleanthony Early and UNI's Seth Tuttle," Loyola athletics reported.
"While the transition to the (MVC) was certainly an adjustment, Moser's Ramblers showed that they fit in very well to one of America's best basketball conferences," according to Loyola athletics. "Loyola announced its presence with a 32-point home win over Missouri State for its first MVC win and endured a stretch in which five of its first seven losses were by single digits, with its most lopsided defeat being a 12-point setback at national power Wichita State."
Loyola then "provided one of championship week's top moments" in its first-ever game at Arch Madness, with Doyle knocking in a long, contested three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Ramblers a 74-72 win over Bradley.
Off the court, Moser's student-athletes continued to excel, with Joe Crisman earning MVC scholar-athlete of the week four different times and the Munster, Ind., native also was the only Loyola student-athlete selected for the school's prestigious Maroon and Gold Society.
After successfully laying the foundation for the program in 2011-12, his first season in Rogers Park, Moser steered the Ramblers to an eight-game improvement in the win column in 2012-13. It was the best improvement in Loyola history by a coach from his first year to his second.
"The eight-game improvement was also the best by a Loyola squad since the 2001-02 team won 10 more contests than the previous outfit," Loyola athletics reported.
Custer, Ingram & Co.
Custer was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year this season, according to The Kansas City Star. And Donte Ingram, who led the team in rebounding and is second in points, plays with an uncommon fire after his teammate and friend Saieed Ivey was killed, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. (And now he's on Twitter, according to the Chicago Tribune.)
Other star players include Jackson, Richardson, Marques Townes, and Cameron Krutwig. Stats are below.
|Clayton Custer||13||JR||G||6-0||175||Overland Park, KS||Blue Valley Northwest||13.4 Pts, 2.2 Reb, 4.2 Ast|
|Donte Ingram||0||SR||G||6-6||215||Chicago, IL||Simeon HS||11.3 Pts, 6.3 Reb, 1.6 Ast|
|Aundre Jackson||24||SR||F||6-5||230||Kennedale, TX||Kennedale High School||11.2 Pts, 3.3 Reb, 1.0 Ast|
|Marques Townes||5||JR||G||6-4||210||Edison, NJ||St. Joseph's HS||11.2 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 2.4 Ast|
|Cameron Krutwig||25||FR||C||6-9||260||Algonquin, IL||10.4 Pts, 6.1 Reb, 1.8 Ast|
|Ben Richardson||14||SR||G||6-3||185||Overland Park, KS||Blue Valley Northwest HS||6.4 Pts, 2.9 Reb, 3.8 Ast|