Proud but unsatisfied Loyola looks forward to 2015-16 season with hunger

ST. LOUIS — Loyola was not supposed to be playing Saturday. The Ramblers were picked in the preseason to finish dead last in the Missouri Valley Conference, and instead they finished sixth. Then they upset No. 3 seed Indiana State in undramatic fashion, 81-53, to reach Saturday’s semifinals, where they lost 63-49 to the No. 2 seed Northern Iowa Panthers.

Coach Porter Moser and his players are excited about what they are building in Chicago, but they want more.

“I’m proud of where we’ve moved it, but I’m not satisfied with where we are,” Moser said. “I am hungry to get what Northern Iowa and Wichita has, the two elite teams in the league, and obviously Illinois State getting to that championship game. Very hungry to be on this stage and be sitting here talking about Sunday’s [championship] game. It should fuel us in the offseason.”

Loyola loses starting forward Christian Thomas, one of the top-20 scorers in Loyola history, and reserve guard Joe Crisman. But everyone else in the rotation returns.

The Ramblers also get a key addition in junior college transfer Maurice Kirby, a 6-foot-9 forward who will address a major issue for Loyola this season — size, or lack thereof.

Moser has continually mentioned Loyola’s “arrow” and how the goal is to keep it pointing up. The arrow was pointing up for most of the 2014-15 season, and with four starters returning the arrow appears to remain the same way with the offseason coming up.

“The program, it’ll be getting better,” said junior guard Earl Peterson, who started most of the season for Loyola after transferring from junior college. “[Playing in the semifinals] was a good experience. It’s something we can definitely build on next year.”

However, the Ramblers may have one more stop before they think too much about next year. They are expecting invitations to the CBI and/or CIT postseason tournaments, and they would accept such an opportunity.

But already, the early goal for this time next season is to not be worrying about the CBI and CIT. A MVC Tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is the new expectation.

“Each year, we’re setting a higher expectation,” Thomas said. “Last year, we won a game but lost in the quarterfinals and some guys were kind of satisfied. This year, I felt no one was going to be satisfied unless we won the whole thing. Next year they’ll return so many people, they’ll kind of buy into that idea that we’re trying to win on Sunday.”

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.

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