Sports Columns

Mazanke: The race for fourth place

Devon Turk needs to stay hot down the stretch. Photo by Steve Woltmann

Reality is setting in for the men’s basketball team after losing four of their last five games in conference play.

At the beginning of the season, the Ramblers seemed like they could do no wrong and their 12-3 record to start season impressed people around the country. Led by a barrage of shots beyond the three point arc, they were operating extremely efficiently on the offensive end of the floor.

Their innate lack of size didn’t even seem to matter as Loyola would consistently out-rebounded teams even though they were well shorter than their opponents.

Although the honeymoon start to the season spurred talks of a possible March Madness birth for the Ramblers, the current mid-season slump will likely eliminate their chances to play Cinderella at the dance.

Even after the slump, not everything is so bleak for this Loyola team. There is still plenty of time to prove themselves before the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

The possibility of postseason play for the Ramblers will come down to this last stretch of games. The way I see it, they are competing for fourth place.

It has become clear that three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in early Missouri Valley Conference play.

Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Indiana State currently sit atop the Missouri Valley Standings. Both Wichita State and Northern Iowa have solidified themselves as the powerhouses in the conference. Both teams have dominated their competition early, finding themselves in the top 25 of the national rankings for most of the season.

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Indiana State is the outlier of this group and showed their vulnerability by losing their first conference game to a struggling Drake Bulldogs team. Despite their problems, the Sycamores performance in an 11 point win over the Ramblers last Saturday has me believing that they will hold tight to their third seed in the conference.

As I see it, Loyola belongs in a second tier of teams in the Valley. As it currently stands Loyola is in sixth place and is two games back from Evansville who is ranked fourth in the conference.

In two games against Evansville, Loyola split the series beating the Purple Aces in Indiana but then dropping their matchup in Gentile Arena.

The key game for Loyola will come against the Illinois State Redbirds who sit fifth in the conference. The Ramblers will see Illinois State two times still before regular season concludes and the outcome of these games will likely play a big role in the conference standings.

The Redbirds will travel to Gentile arena on Saturday to face the Ramblers. Lets hope Loyola can end their mid season slump and get hot again for their final season stretch.

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