The Loyola men’s basketball team (2-0) was ranked No. 106 by ESPN and No. 92 by Sports Illustrated for this preseason. Sports Illustrated also predicted the team winning the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and taking the 13th seed in the NCAA tournament.
In the MVC preseason poll, the team was ranked third and received one first place vote. Two players — senior guard Donte Ingram and senior forward Aundre Jackson — earned first-team preseason All-MVC honors.
With these rankings, one would think the team is more hyped for the season, given the predictions of making the NCAA tournament in March. But, the Ramblers aren’t letting the excitement get to them.
“Those preseason predictions don’t factor in … newcomers, and the impact they are going to have,” head coach Porter Moser said. “I put little to almost no value into preseason rankings, I really don’t. I think it is maybe a sign that we have a couple vets back … I wouldn’t approach a nonconference team that is picked 10 in their conference any differently than a team that is picked third in their conference.”
Like their coach, the players are unfazed by the rankings.This season, the Ramblers are focused on increasing their depth and advancing their defense. Moser said he believes having a strong rotation is important for winning the MVC championship.
“We have to develop our depth,” Moser said. “To win a conference tournament you’ve got to win three games in three days. It is very hard to play five or six guys. We have got to get where we trust a [nine or 10 man] rotation. I think the teams that have won that three games in three days really have a nine-man rotation and can go deep.”
Sophomore guards Cameron Satterwhite and Bruno Skokna are two players Moser said will help contribute to the depth of the team. In two games Satterwhite had 15 points and eight rebounds while Skokna only had three points with four rebounds. Moser said he hopes they can step up their game and be mentally prepared for the positions they need to fill, despite their age.
“They just mentally have got to be a year older,” Moser said. “They were [first-years] last year and it’s a big step for them not to make [first-year] mistakes. They have to be wiser [and] better, and I am counting on it. If they really step up you are going to see us have a really good guard rotation.”
Moser said this year’s recruiting class is the strongest in his time at Loyola. Although first-year forward Christian Negron and junior guard Adarius Avery haven’t seen any playing time due to injuries, first-year Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson have impressed their new teammates.
“The [first-years] have come in and they have been working hard,” senior guard Ben Richardson said. “I think they have integrated well with us and I think each guy is going to find their role as the season goes on. We have some really talented [first-years] that can do a lot and I think people are going to be impressed with how advanced they are for [first-years]. I think they can bring a lot to the table this year.”
With the season just beginning, the team has high hopes for its success. Ingram said the goal is to win the MVC tournament, which is what they’re working toward all season.
“We have those talks in the preseason and obviously everybody in the conference wants to be conference champions,” Ingram said. “We are just trying to work day in and day out [thinking about] how we are going to accomplish that goal and little milestones we are going to achieve, [like] getting better defensively and holding teams under a certain percentage.”
The Ramblers have started out the season 2-0 with victories over Wright State University and Eureka College. They are scheduled to travel to Kansas City, Missouri to face the University of Missouri-Kansas City Nov. 16.