It was pandemonium in Rogers Park on Saturday as the clock ticked down and the Loyola Ramblers punched their ticket to the Final Four, continuing their improbable journey in the madness that is March.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Loyola junior Mary Kate Martell said among throngs of fans off-campus at the Bulldog Ale House. “It’s really indescribable, that’s the only way to describe it.”
The Ramblers’ journey in the tourney has been nothing short of extraordinary. After winning the Missouri Valley Conference and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament, the expectations among fans was to simply enjoy the ride. Few thought that ride would take them all the way to San Antonio.
When Loyola beat Miami 64-62 in the first round, heads were turned. In the second round when the team advanced past Tennessee 63-62 for its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1985, jaws dropped.
After knocking off Nevada on Thursday, then topping Kansas State to send the Ramblers to the Final Four, no one is surprised by this team anymore.
“Campus has literally exploded within the last two weeks,” Loyola junior Sophia Pasajlic said. “Everyone is so proud of this team. Everyone is so proud to be a Rambler.”
Saturday against Kansas State, the explosion grew even bigger. The Ramblers poured it on from tipoff en route to a 78-62 victory, unleashing a flood of maroon and gold into the streets of Rogers Park.
Inside Bulldog Ale House, a unified chant dominated the noise: “Final Four. Final Four. Final Four.”
There may not have been lofty expectations when Loyola embarked on this mad run, but now fans have just one thing on their minds.
“We have to go all the way,” Loyola senior Michael Gross said. “I don’t mean just make it, we have to win it.”