Here’s why Chicago is rallying around Final Four-bound Ramblers

SHARE Here’s why Chicago is rallying around Final Four-bound Ramblers

Loyola-Chicago head coach Porter Moser holds the net after a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Kansas State, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Atlanta. Loyola-Chicago won 78-62. | Mike Stewart/Associated Press

Over the weekend, Chicago’s skyline was shining with maroon and gold lights. “Go Loyola” was glowing on the side of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower. It was a sight to see and one that gave Loyola coach Porter Moser the chills.

Chicago has embraced Loyola’s postseason success and has adopted the Ramblers as its own despite practically ignoring the North Side college for the last decade. (It might also help that the Blackhawks and Bulls are out of playoff contention.)

“[Chicago has] always been known as a pro town,” said Moser, a Naperville native, in a conference call Monday. “It’s not a pro town, it’s a sports town, and they love . . .  winning teams. They love passionate, prideful, hardworking teams, and they’ve gotten behind us.”

Moser was basically describing his own team.

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Loyola’s roster is made up of 16 unselfish men whose chemistry is undeniable on and off the court.

Oh, and winning? It’s something Loyola has done for nearly the last two months.

The Ramblers are on a 14-game win streak and haven’t lost since Jan. 31, when they were on the road.

Loyola has pulled off upset after upset in the NCAA Tournament in thrilling fashion. And now, the Ramblers are on their way to the Final Four for the first time since 1963.

Add in a 98-year-old basketball-loving nun who has become an “international” celebrity overnight and there’s nothing more you can really ask for from this team.

Loyola, which is the fourth No. 11 seed to ever make it to the Final Four, will play No. 3 Michigan at 5:09 p.m. Saturday in San Antonio.

Moser wants his players to use the excitement from the city as motivation and momentum heading into the Ramblers’ fifth chapter of their storybook postseason.

“I love the run we’re on,” Moser said. “I think it’s been great for our guys. And I’m not surprised about the attention because in this tournament, the more you win in it at every level, it increases.”

Moser said the Ramblers won’t prepare for the Final Four in any different way. He wants this process to be as normal as possible, but with all the media attention on Loyola, that’s something easier said than done.

Loyola players have said all postseason that Moser has stressed to them to keep their “blinder” up and focus on the next game. That mentality of “no finish line” seems to have worked.

Michigan coach John Beilein realizes Loyola is a special team. He said he has cautioned his players to not overlook Loyola because of its low seeding.

“They’re not Cinderella anymore,” Beilein said. “When you win 30 games, you’re not a Cinderella team, you’re really good, and this team is really, really, really — that’s three really’s — good. And everybody knows it that’s played them  . . . and I know that will be our biggest thing, to make sure our kids know that.

“I can see where they’d be a really tough prep on one day between games. We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we’ll do our very best.”

Follow me on Twitter @madkenney.


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