Loyola’s men’s basketball team started the season hot, posting a 12-3 record. Since then, it has gone on a 1-6 skid, losing its last five contests.
The Ramblers’ hot start had some experts buzzing about a possible March Madness at-large berth for the team
After the recent losing streak however, Loyola, ranked sixth in the conference with a 3-7 record, will most likely not have a chance to play in the coveted March Madness tournament.
Part of the reason for the team’s struggles can be attributed to a number of injuries that have plagued the Ramblers. Key players Montel James and Milton Doyle have been affected by various injuries during the losing streak.
The absence of Doyle’s scoring presence the past five games has been one of the biggest hurdles this team has needed to overcome. Although his scoring numbers are down from a season ago, Doyle was still leading the team in points and assists per game.
What is even more impressive is how efficiently Doyle shoots the ball when he is on the floor. The combo guard has hit 46 percent of his three-point attempts this season.
Altogether, Loyola averages 12 points less a game when Doyle is out of the lineup. This is extremely damaging, considering Loyola only averages 62 points per game.
The other issue that has been exposed in recent games is the lack of height on this year’s roster.
Loyola only has two players over 6 feet 6 inches on its roster and only one of them (James) plays consistently. This forces Coach Porter Moser to frequently play four or five guards on the floor at a time.
Early in the season, the small lineups seemed to be working exceptionally well. Loyola’s strength came from its three-point shooting ability, and the Ramblers’ offense was one of the most efficient in the NCAA.
However, these same small lineups are now being exploited by Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) teams. Loyola has been out-rebounded in its last five contests by a margin of 165-129.
Although the Ramblers have struggled in recent games, their level of competition needs to be taken into account. Aside from their loss against Southern Illinois, all of the Ramblers’ in-conference losses have come to teams that are higher in the MVC standings.
If the MVC game last week where No.18 Northern Iowa dominated No.12 Wichita State (70-54), is any indication of how much talent this conference tournament will feature, we are in for an entertaining group of games come Arch Madness.
There is good news for the Ramblers. Their remaining eight games of the regular season feature a group of weaker teams. During their final season stretch they will only play three teams who have a superior conference record.
Considering Loyola was picked to finish last in the preseason conference rankings, its standing doesn’t seem so bad.
If the Ramblers can pick up some momentum going into the conference tournament, who knows what can happen with this team? With a little bit more magic from a healthy Milton Doyle, they could find themselves playing on the weekend at Arch Madness.