Loyola celebrates its win against Kansas State in the Elite Eight

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Holmes: Loyola's Amazing Run Was Much-Needed In Chicago

The Ramblers represent a story of hard work and hope fulfilled.

Laurence Holmes
March 30, 2018 - 1:13 pm
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By Laurence W. Holmes--

(670 The Score) We needed this.

Chicago sports fans needed this run from Loyola to the Final Four. It's been a winter in which the Bears were so terrible that they had to fire their coach (again), the Blackhawks didn’t make the playoffs while looking old and slow in the process and the Bulls are in full tank mode. That’s all before we mention the disappointments that Illinois and DePaul basketball were. It was a sports winter of discontent.

What’s a Chicago sports fan to do?

Then Loyola rides to the rescue with a story of hope, the valuable commodity that all fans trade in. As good as the story feels, don’t look at it as overnight success or even a Cinderella tale. The Ramblers have earned this. It’s been building to this point for seven long years, but even if we just go back to the beginning of the season, the seeds were planted in Chicago fans’ minds. In November, I had Loyola coach Porter Moser on the show. He was a great interview as usual, but what intrigued me was the feedback from listeners. Plenty of them tweeted and texted me about how positive and excited Moser sounded. Most coaches sound that way in November. Next, the Ramblers started backing it up.

After Loyola's win at No. 5 Florida, we took calls. It was amazing to see fans react to an early December victory. That’s the moment when the Ramblers got on the radar for a lot of fans. I wouldn’t call it a buzz per se, but I do think that at least it caught people’s attention. Once the Bears coaching search was over, people were looking for something good on the field of play to check out. The Ramblers provided that.

What’s amazing about the run Loyola is on is just how many fans have jumped on the bandwagon. I don’t think that’s a bad development, and neither do the folks at Loyola. The Ramblers probably aren’t your first team. Maybe you root for Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Kentucky or whomever, but you made room in your heart for what Loyola was doing. Part of it is the "underdog" moniker. Part of it is provincial: Chicago likes to root for Chicago. Part of it is that you’ve been craving a team from the city to be good for a long time. The most important part of it is the way the team plays.

Loyola plays incredible team defense. My favorite statistic about this team is that no one has fouled out of a game all season. Not one! What does that tell you? It says to me that the Ramblers are well-coached, absorb scouting reports and don’t reach on defense. For the season, they shot 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. They’re a team that shares the ball, and they pass up good shots to take great shots. All of this is from a team filled with players who weren’t in the top 200 coming out of high school. It’s beautifully executed basketball.

Moser invited me to come watch a game at Gentile, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had been there as a broadcaster a couple of times, but this time was different. I could take in the atmosphere and sit in the stands. The Ramblers have a fun, boisterous fan base with an on-campus facility that rocks when it’s full. When you walk in, you see the shrine to the 1963 championship team, which provides an excellent history lesson about Loyola’s role in growing the game during the Civil Rights movement. The student center is adjacent to the entrance to the gym, so students walk right up. Everything you want from a local college team is there for you. It’s the best bang for your buck as college basketball goes in this town.

Win or lose this weekend, this Ramblers season has been a rousing success. I’m hoping they ramble on to a championship. My other hope is that you don’t forget about them next year. Go see them, up close and personal. Reward the joy they’ve given you over the last month with some love of your own. 

Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.