Final Four roar? Silence of an empty gym? Loyola’s Cameron Krutwig has seen, done it all

The baby-faced lefty — on the way to becoming the school’s first three-time All-MVC first-teamer — is better than ever. And he believes the Ramblers, off to their best 18-game start in 55 years, are better than they were in 2018.

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Loyola v Michigan

Krutwig during Loyola’s Final Four semifinal loss to Michigan in 2018.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cameron Krutwig came into our lives with a Final Four roar, a baby-faced Loyola freshman who — with his dancing-bear post moves and boyish exuberance — became perhaps the most magnetic and lovable thing about the Ramblers’ improbable 2018 glory. Soon-to-be centenarian nuns not included, of course.

‘‘The highest of the high, man,’’ he recalled Tuesday. ‘‘We played in front of 60,000 people, 70,000 people. There’s nothing like it.’’

Three years later, Krutwig, a 22-year-old senior, is going out with the deafening silence of an empty gym.

‘‘It’s obviously not the same,’’ he said.

Krutwig isn’t the best college player to lace ’em up in Chicago, but not many have seen and done more. He has gone from being a part of one of the great Cinderella stories of all time to — amid the challenges of a pandemic — leading the Ramblers (15-3) to their best record through 18 games in 55 years. By the time he’s finished, he’ll be the first Loyola player named first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference three times.

The team’s leading scorer and rebounder for the second consecutive season, Krutwig is a much better player than he was as a freshman. He’s stronger, faster, more focused. A bit meaner, too. Or haven’t you seen his intimidating mustache? OK, so maybe it has a certain chocolate-milk-meets-baby-face look to it.

‘‘In the early stages, it was pretty bad,’’ he said. ‘‘Now it’s taking off a little bit.’’

Let’s not downplay just how good these Ramblers are. They’re 10-1 in MVC play, with nine of the victories coming by double digits. That includes two blowouts at Missouri State, which coach Porter Moser called the best back-to-back games Krutwig has played at Loyola. The Ramblers got back from that trip at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. Their big lefty slept in, with no classes until the early evening. That’s a senior who knows what he’s doing, folks.

You want something big to mark on your sports calendar? Loyola’s games at Drake on Feb. 13-14 will be monsters. The Bulldogs are 17-0 and ranked in the Top 25.

‘‘They’ll be the biggest matchups in the Valley in years,’’ Krutwig said.

The 2018 team was special, with veterans Clayton Custer, Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram, Marques Townes and Aundre Jackson making all the right moves and meeting all the big moments. Krutwig thinks the 2021 version is even better. For one thing, he says, the talent level in the program has risen. The roster is packed with upperclassmen, including Lucas Williamson, who also had a hand in that Final Four run. And, according to Krutwig, the weight of the pandemic has bonded players like never before.

If the 2018 and 2021 teams played a best-of-seven series, what would happen?

‘‘I think it would be close, for sure,’’ Krutwig said. ‘‘But I might give the edge to this year’s team, just because I’m a way better player than I was back then.’’

Talk to the mustache if you don’t like it.

New York Mets v Kansas City Royals

Callaway during his days as Mets manager.

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

JUST SAYIN’

Baseball has a caveman problem. Mickey Callaway, the former Mets manager and current Angels pitching coach, might be the captain of the caveman team. I’d call him Captain Caveman, but my favorite cartoon character as a child was ‘‘the world’s first superhero,’’ not a villain. And Callaway, Jared Porter and their ilk are indeed villains.

The superheroes are the women in the baseball media who are dragging these emotionally stunted jerks out of their caves and into the harsh sunlight, so the world can see them as they really are. Callaway harassed at least five such women, according to The Athletic, hounding them by text and email, sending shirtless photos, asking for nudes and inviting them to get drunk with him. Porter, the former Mets general manager, blew up a journalist’s phone with dozens of unwanted texts when he was in the Cubs’ front office in 2016 and was unable to resist sending her a photo of — what else? — his cavemanhood.

These are the kind of guys you root against when a woolly mammoth is in the vicinity.

No, this isn’t just a baseball problem. It’s a men problem, and we tend to be pretty much everywhere. It’s a power problem, and we tend to have it pretty much everywhere. It’s a complicity problem, and we’re right at the heart of it if we don’t have our colleagues’ backs when it comes to all forms of harassment.

• To fans who keep suggesting the Cubs will be sneaky-good in 2021 and win a wide-open division:

Stop.

It’s the Cardinals’ year in the National League Central. Why? Because good things happen when you trade for third baseman Nolan Arenado, get his former team (the Rockies) to pony up tens of millions of dollars toward his salary and — huge ‘‘and’’ — don’t give up your top prospects in the deal.

Top that, Jed Hoyer. Like, ever.

• Too soon to say outright that Blackhawks goalie Kevin Lankinen is really good? Good enough that we can stop referring to the team’s goaltending as a major weakness? Good enough that we can stop starting sentences with, ‘‘If only Corey Crawford were here . . . ’’?

Yeah, probably.

Candace Parker has yet to shoot a layup in a Sky practice jersey, but she’s already the best thing ever to happen to the team.

‘‘We needed a big-time player,’’ general manager/coach James Wade said. ‘‘We needed an MVP-caliber player.’’

Translation: ‘‘Excuse me for a sec while I give her the ball and get the hell out of the way.’’

• Bucs 27, Chiefs 24.

And print it.

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