After being picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, Loyola is off to its best start of the Porter Moser Era at 11-3.
The preseason pick was not flawed. The Ramblers’ struggles were plentiful enough after last year’s 10-win effort that some frustrated fans had Moser on the hot seat entering the 2014-15 season.
But Moser, who endured losing seasons each of his first three years at Loyola, knew eventually he would find a successful group. And now he has.
“You take a program over, it takes time,” Moser said Monday. “Sometimes there’s addition by subtraction. You finally find a group of guys that are willing to invest in what you need. And jumping into this league was obviously another huge step for us.”
Not only is Loyola in position to avoid the Arch Madness play-in game and advance straight to quarterfinals, but the Ramblers could realistically be wearing their home uniforms in the quarterfinals. March is still far away, but Loyola has shown it can compete for a top-four spot in the MVC.
Moser has worked to build a winning culture during his four years at Loyola, and he is finally seeing that culture take hold in his program.
“After practice you’ve got a ton of guys working on their game. My first year or two here, the coaches were the only guys in the gym working on their game afterwards,” Moser said. “I think you can really see the culture. I think we’re very unselfish. I think we’ve got guys who are happy for each other. I really like that chemistry. We’re another big step away from getting where we need to be in this league. But we like where we’re headed. And we understand we’ve got another step to take, but the chemistry is really good.”
Loyola is in the middle of its toughest stretch of the season. The Ramblers traveled Sunday to No. 23/20 Northern Iowa and lost 67-58. They head to top-25 mid-major Evansville on Wednesday before returning home for No. 15/14 Wichita State this coming Sunday.
The three-game string is brutal for Loyola, but these teams aren’t terribly happy to see the Ramblers either.
“They’ve got tons of weapons, very deep, getting great play from their bench,” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. “Got a superstar in [sophomore guard] Milton Doyle. [He] makes everybody around him better.”