The year was 1985. The top movies were Back to the Future, The Color Purple, Rocky IV, The Goonies, and The Breakfast Club. The top song was Say You, Say Me by Lionel Richie. The first WrestleMania debuted. Ronald Reagan was president. 1985 was also the last time that the Loyola Chicago Ramblers made the NCAA Tournament. Current Loyola head coach Porter Moser was also a 16-year-old at Benet Academy at the time, where he would be a starter on the varsity basketball team from his sophomore through senior year.
Moser is currently in his 14th year of head coaching in Division I basketball. Porter spent time at Arkansas-Little Rock and Illinois State, before arriving at his current gig, Loyola (Chi.). He also spent time throughout his career as an assistant at Creighton, Texas A&M, Milwaukee, and Saint Louis, where he was an assistant to late legend Rick Majerus.
Moser has been at the helm of Loyola since the 2011-12 season. However, it has been somewhat of a rough ride. The Ramblers won just 22 games in Moser’s first two seasons, including just six conference victories. Moser and Loyola also endured a conference change, as they moved from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference in 2013.
The Ramblers would win just 10 games in their first season in The Valley, four of which were in conference. They finished dead last in the MVC. However, the Ramblers quickly turned the corner, and went 24-13 the next season, Moser’s best finishing record in his career. His team was even invited to the 2015 College Basketball Invitational, where Loyola would win all four of their games to win the tournament. The CBI back in 2015 is still the only postseason tournament Moser has made as a head coach.
Since Moser’s time at Loyola, they have gone 111-110. Not exactly a fantastic record. However, Loyola has won at least 18 games in three out of their last four seasons and have won at least 22 games in two of their last four seasons. They currently sit at 22-5 (12-3 MVC) this season. That’s the best record in the Valley, and they sit two games ahead of the second-place team in terms of conference wins.
Moser and his squad are aiming for Loyola’s first regular season conference title in the Valley. But nothing easy in the Valley. If Loyola wins the regular season title and not the conference tournament, their tournament hopes could be in jeopardy. The Valley regular season champion has failed to win the conference tournament in four of the last eight seasons. Nothing is given during Arch Madness. The tournament once again will be in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center, from March 1st-4th.
But in terms of favorites, Loyola is it. The Valley is pretty even this year in terms of competition. Every team has 13 or more wins except for one team, as opposed to years past where some teams had a single digit number of wins. Loyola currently hangs at the top at 22-5 (12-3 MVC). In second place sits the Southern Illinois Salukis, who are 18-10 (10-5 MVC). The top two seeds met earlier this season in Chicago, where the Ramblers toppled the Salukis 79-65. The two will meet in Carbondale on February 21st.
Moser’s squad is led by an experienced backcourt, with junior guard Clayton Custer, who leads the team with 14.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 1.6 SPG. Senior guard Donte Ingram is alongside Custer, as he averages 11.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and is second on the team in blocks. Another junior guard, Marques Townes averages 11.3 PPG as well, along with 4.2 RPG and 2.5 APG.
In the frontcourt, Loyola is led by senior forward Aundre Jackson, who like Ingram and Towns, averages 11.3 PPG. Jackson also averages 3.2 RPG and 1.2 APG. Finally, the team’s center is Cameron Krutwig, the Ramblers’ only starting freshman. The 6’9” big man averages 10.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and leads the team in blocks.
It is hard to beat a team when all five of their starters averages double figures. The Ramblers starters almost average 60 points per game, where the bench averages around 25. The Ramblers have also proved they can hang with the big boys, as they beat the then #5 Florida Gators 65-59 on the road in Gainsville earlier this season. Florida has kind of fallen off the map this year as they are unranked now but are still 17-8 (8-4 SEC) and will likely be headed to the NCAA Tournament.
Moser and Loyola still have to get through their last three regular season games, as well as the Valley Tournament. In their four seasons in the MVC, Loyola is 3-4 in Valley tournament games. The furthest they’ve advanced was to the semifinals back in the 2015 tournament. Moser will look to make it a season of firsts for himself and his team, as they aim for their first Valley regular season conference title, Valley conference tournament title, Moser’s first NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach, and the university’s first since 1985. Loyola certainly has the team to do it, but only time will tell if Loyola can pull it off.