Coach Fred Hoiberg has two horses in this race. That doesn’t mean he won’t admit to a favorite.
“I’ve got to go for the Ramblers,” Hoiberg said when asked about Saturday’s big showdown between Loyola and Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament, with a trip to the Final Four at stake.
It wasn’t an easy pick. Hoiberg has a good relationship with Kansas State coach Bruce Weber from Hoiberg’s days coaching at Iowa State and has come to know Loyola coach Porter Moser on a friendly basis.
“I was really impressed with both performances [Thurday night],” Hoiberg said. “Loyola, after falling down 12 early, the way they guarded Nevada at the end of the first half was very admirable, how they kept with it. The way they move the ball and share it and trust each other, it’s a lot of fun to watch. That team is playing with a ton of confidence.
“Bruce Weber just mucked that [game against Kentucky] up and made it as ugly as possible in a slugfest-type game. He did what he had to do to get that win.”
This has been an interesting tournament for Hoiberg to watch from a distance, especially considering his son, Jack, is a walk-on at Michigan State. The Spartans lost to Syracuse, falling short of what many expected. But Hoiberg has continued to follow along, and like many in the city, he has been captivated by the Ramblers’ run.
“[Saturday’s] going to be fun,” he said. “Loyola is so much fun to watch with all the different storylines with Sister Jean [Dolores-Schmidt] and players playing as kids who are still together now. But knowing Bruce and coaching against Bruce, I know he’s going to put a great game plan together.”
End of the audition
Guard Antonio Blakeney’s season ended Thursday after the Bulls announced he has a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist, uncovered by further tests. Blakeney is expected to be in a cast for about six weeks but does not need surgery.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but stuff like this happens all the time,” Blakeney said. “You get hurt, you’ve got to sit out. It’s out of my control.”
Blakeney played in 19 games for the Bulls, averaging 7.9 points and 1.7 rebounds.
“I definitely think I showed them a little bit of what I could do, but I definitely think I have a lot more to show,” he said.
According to the Bulls’ training staff, Blakeney injured the wrist in the Knicks game Monday, but the original X-rays done by the Knicks’ medical staff didn’t catch the fracture. He played in Wednesday night’s loss to the Nuggets and underwent additional testing afterward.
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