Ramblers go to Final 4 for second time ever!


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ATLANTA—Loyola has captured the hearts of college basketball fans everywhere this March, and now it will have a chance to compete for a national championship on the game’s biggest stage after beating Kansas State 78-62 to be crowned as champions of the South Region. Senior guard Ben Richardson scored a career-high 23 points to lead the Ramblers, who will play Michigan in the Final Four. Arguably the toughest corner of the bracket, the one with the overall No. 1 seed and four conference tournament champions, has been where we’ve found this year’s most unlikely outcomes, from the first-ever 16-over-1 upset to a mid-major from the Missouri Valley Conference making a Final Four run as a No. 11-seed. On the court Loyola packed all of the thrills, beating the third-place team in the ACC (Miami), the SEC regular season co-champions (Tennessee) and the Mountain West champions (Nevada) by a combined four points. Off the court Loyola introduced the rest of the country to Sister Jean, a kind-hearted and noble face of the NCAA Tournament after a season mostly defined by scandal tied to an ongoing corruption investigation by the FBI. Loyola’s team fits the model of what so many love about college basketball and this tournament as well. This group doesn’t wow you with size or speed when they get off the bus, but the ball moves faster than any player and no one passes the ball better as a team than the Ramblers. There isn’t a bad passer on the team, and any one of the rotation players has the potential to to be the team’s primary offensive threat on a given night. It’s one of the things that makes Loyola so good in the closing moments of these close games: opponents can’t turn their attention to any one player because anyone on the floor could potentially be the go-to guy of the moment. The unusual way the region unfolded gave Loyola an Elite Eight foe different from the top seeds that George Mason and VCU had to beat in 2006 and 2011. After beating a No. 6, a No. 3 and a No. 7, the last test was No. 9 Kansas State. The way the game unfolded broke the mold from previous tournament wins as well, with Loyola leading by as many as 21 in the second half and then holding on for the program-defining win in the final minutes.