The Loyola basketball program is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Marty McFly and Doc Brown were time traveling. Yes, until now, 1985 was the most recent season that the Ramblers dancing in March Madness. The Missouri Valley Conference regular season and conference tournament champions are likely to land on the #12 or #11 line come this Selection Sunday, and make thus make the perfect trendy #12 over #5 upset prediction in your bracket.
It happens every year, the #12 over #5, and every year anybody who predicted it in their bracket will not stop telling you about it. If you need a rooting interest this NCAA Tournament, perhaps this Loyola basketball program is the brazen bandwagon for you.
I stopped by WGN-TV studios, to do a guest segment on CLTV Sports Feed with Jarrett Payton tonight. It was mostly to cover March Madness and we covered Loyola basketball:
There’s a lot that makes the Ramblers, past, present and future, very compelling. The program situated on the north side of Chicago, with a lakeside campus, swept the MVC awards this past season, thus fully completing their transition from the Horizon League to The Valley. They have the conference’s defensive player of the year in Ben Richardson, the player of the year (Larry Bird trophy) in Clayton Custer, and freshman of the year in Cameron Krutwig.
Obviously, the conference’s coach of the year is Porter Moser, a Rick Majerus disciple, who will no doubt be offered plenty of big jobs this silly season.
If he passes up a power five gig and opts to stay put, the future of Loyola basketball is very bright; much like the present. This is a team that won at Florida, and took the conference crown by four whole games. Their success is built around spacing the floor well, as they have strength both inside and outside.
They’re also extremely balanced and selfless, as the Ramblers roll nine deep, but don’t have any guys in the conference’s top 10 in scoring. Loyola basketball has a glorious past too; you just have to go pretty deep in the past to find it. You would never guess this today, but they boast the state of Illinois’ only national title, accomplished in 1963 over Cincinnati, who were then at the height of their power, coming off back-to-back national championships.
That Ramblers team was notable for something much bigger than basketball too, as they were civil rights pioneers. The 1962-63 Loyola basketball team broke the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” amongst coaches in which no more than two black players would be on the floor at one time.
Back then, during some road games, black players would have to rotate so that only one of them was on the floor at a time. Yes, that’s how institutionalized racism in America once was, and it really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it.
With the recent rise of the alt-right and #MAGA movements, America is institutionalizing racism once again.
The ’62-’63 Ramblers would regularly have three or four black starters, paving the way for the 1965-66 Texas Western (Now UTEP) team (depicted in the Disney film “Glory Road”) who would finally put the “agreement” to rest and have an all-black starting five. Basically, Loyola basketball was Glory Road three years before Glory Road and this is all chronicled in detail in the book:
Ramblers: Loyola Chicago 1963—The Team that Changed the Color of College Basketball, by Michael Lenehan.
In 2013, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their championship, surviving members of the team were honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
Thus, if you need a bandwagon to jump on this NCAA Tournament, think about there Loyola basketball is now and where it’s been: a program that was extremely progressive and forward-thinking, and very much on the right side of history.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.
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