Loyola fans across the nation are gearing up to watch the Ramblers take on University of Nevada’s Wolf Pack tonight in the Sweet 16. But even though former Loyola guard and Brooklyn Nets two-way player Milton Doyle can’t watch the game tonight, he’s just as excited for the team.
Doyle said he can’t watch the game due to his own demanding schedule, but he’s been keeping up with the team all season and is even in a group chat with some of the current players.
“They’re great. They came a long way throughout the years, especially this year with what they’ve been working on,” Doyle said. “It’s just a process and they have a lot of seniors that have been leading the way so I know they’re in good hands.”
Doyle graduated last year after playing four years on the team. He finished his career ranked eighth on the program’s all-time scoring chart with 1606 points, helped the Ramblers to the 2015 College Basketball Invitational title and led them to their first Associated Press Top 25 poll votes since 1985. As a senior he had 15.2 points, 5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game, and he was the first player to be named First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference in program history.
He’s friends with a number of the players on the team and even mentored some. All season, he’s been following them and said he’s proud to see them playing in the Sweet 16.
“I remember some of those guys coming in as freshmen, seeing how they’ve come and all they’ve achieved, it’s great to see their success,” Doyle said.
Just hours before the game stars, one would think the players are nervous, but Doyle said he knows how they think and that they’re trying to remain positive while realizing this game could go either way.
“Anything is possible,” Doyle said. “I think they’re ready. It’s a group of guys that play at a high level of competition and they enjoy a challenge so I think they’re ready.”
Some Rambler fans are content with how far the team has gotten this season. Doyle said he’s just as eager for a win as the players are.
“I feel good. I always feel good about them, no matter who they are playing,” Doyle said. “I think they have proved a point this year and I think they can continue to do it. So in my mind their chances are great.”
He said that in order to win today they just need to keep playing their game and don’t let anything get to them. He said as long as they keep playing and staying together mentally like they have in previous games, it should go well. Doyle said the moment they take their eyes off the prize is when it goes south.
The University of Nevada has a pretty tall roster. Of 17 players, seven are six-foot-seven or taller. Their height will be a challenge for the Ramblers as their players are on the shorter side when it comes to the average height of basketball players. Doyle said he knows the Ramblers will be able to adapt to overcome the challenge.
“Usually when that happens we just try to make the other team adjust to us, they’ll have to play their smaller guys,” Doyle said. “It’s hard to play against Loyola with small guys, especially with Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson playing at the floor. Teams have to adjust and have to play their guards at the floor position. I think it will even out.”
In terms of playmaking, Doyle said redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer will be important in this game. While Doyle only had the opportunity to play with Custer for one season, Doyle said he knows Custer is a force to be reckoned with.
“He’s kind of a key guy,” Doyle said. “He makes everything happen. Being a point guard and a leader of the team, he makes all the right plays. When he gets going, nobody can stop him.”
As an alumni and fan, Doyle said watching them go as far as they have has been amazing. He watched the first round game against University of Miami and the second round game against Tennessee, and has been proud by the obstacles they’ve overcome.
“It’s amazing watching those guys. Just watching them on TV in the tournament, getting these big wins and making all these big plays,” Doyle said. “From the [first-year] guys like Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson coming in and making these big plays to the seniors like Donte, Ben [Richardson] and Aundre. It’s been great to watch.”
But does the former star of the team think the Ramblers will pull off a Sweet 16 victory?
“I think they will win today,” Doyle said. “[They] just [need to] continue to play defense. I think their defense has been great over these games this year. I think that’s the biggest thing. They’ve keyed in and locked in on the big guys. So as long as they do that and make shots, it’ll be great.”
The Ramblers take on No.7-seeded University of Nevada at 6:07 CT in Atlanta. Watch parties will be taking place in the Damen Student Center, Ireland’s Pub 10 and Bulldog Ale House.