Going into Sunday’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament final it was assured that one Illinois school was going to break a lengthy NCAA tournament drought.
Top-seed Loyola and Illinois State fought to become a Cinderella story, but it was the Ramblers that locked up the tournament spot. Loyola hasn’t been dancing since 1985, which included a Sweet Sixteen run and a loss to Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown.
The Ramblers beat the Redbirds 65-49 to lock up the MVC tournament after going 15-3 in the MVC regular season to win the conference title. Loyola led 39-31 at halftime and used a run early in the second half to extend the lead and put ISU away.
Illinois State, which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1998, has now been to three of the last four and six of the last 11 MVC tourney finals and come up short each time. Last year the Redbirds went 28-7 and 17-1 in the MVC, but lost to Wichita State in the final. The Shockers moved to the American Athletic Conference this season and are ranked in the top 15 teams in the country.
Loyola, which moved from the Horizon League to the MVC in the 2013-14 season, got on the national radar with a win at Florida in early December. The Ramblers, which both ESPN's Joe Lunardi and CBS' Jerry Palm have project to be a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tourney, have a 28-5 record and are riding a 10-game winning streak.
Loyola is the first Chicago school to make the tourney since DePaul and UIC both made it in 2004. The Ramblers will be the only school to represent the state of Illinois with down years from Northwestern and Illinois.
One of the icons of DePaul athletics is sticking around.
Monday, DePaul extended the contract of women's basketball head coach Doug Bruno through the 2023-24 season. Bruno just wrapped up his 32nd season as head coach of his alma mater, leading DePaul to its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament.
While the Blue Demons were eliminated in the Round of 32 this March, Bruno has led the program to the Sweet 16 three of the last eight seasons.
“I am so thankful to be working at a great institution like DePaul,” Bruno said in a press release. “I never would have been here without coach Ray Meyer who gave me a basketball scholarship, Frank McGrath and Gene Sullivan who hired me in the 1970s."
Behind Bruno, DePaul went 27-8 in 2017-18, winning its fifth-straight Big East regular-season title. The Blue Demons also won their third Big East Tournament title in five years, defeating rival Marquette 98-63. Bruno also picked up his 700th career victory in February, defeating conference-foe Butler 86-68.
“I’ve been fortunate to have great assistant coaches through all the years,” he said. “My current staff is absolutely one of the best in the country.
"Most important, the reason you succeed is the players. I’ve been blessed to have tremendous student-athletes help build the DePaul women’s basketball legacy.
“I am excited about this contract extension because we still have work to do. As proud as we are of everything we have achieved, our expectation through the length of this extension is to take the Blue Demons to even higher places.”
Loyola is rewarding Porter Moser for his basketball team's success this season.
Loyola and Moser have agreed to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced Wednesday. The deal is through the 2025-26 season.
"We are excited to be able to announce a new contract for Porter that will keep him at Loyola a long time," Loyola Director of Athletics Steve Watson said. "He is the perfect fit for Loyola and operates his program the right way, with student-athletes who achieve excellence on the court and in the classroom and are also excellent representatives of the institution.
"We are fortunate to work at a university like Loyola, that values and has made a commitment to athletics. It is nice to reward Porter not just for an outstanding season, but also for the job he has done during his time here."
That's a well-deserved extension for a head coach who led the Ramblers to a NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985.
As the 11th seed, Loyola exceeded all expectations, shocking the world with a Final Four appearance. The Ramblers took down No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 7 Nevada, and No. 9 Kansas State before losing to No. 3 Michigan, who would go on to lose to No. 1 Villanova in the championship game.
Loyola finished the regular season with a 28-5 record and a MVC Championship.
In seven seasons, Moser has a 121-111 record with the Ramblers, though three of his last four have been winning seasons.