No. 1 seed Loyola (27-5, 15-3) is scheduled to play in its first Arch Madness championship game against No. 3 seed Illinois State University (18-13, 10-8) March 4 at 1 p.m. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
There is much more at stake than just an NCAA tournament appearance. Loyola and Illinois State have a history rich with storylines.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser coached at Illinois State from 2004-07. While there, he compiled a 51-67 overall record and a 22-50 conference record. Moser is looking to become the second coach in Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) history to win the conference tournament as a player and as a coach.
Loyola assistant coach Bryan Mullins’ brother, Brendan, is an assistant coach at Illinois State. Mullins told The PHOENIX in February he had thought about coaching against his brother in the championship and now he has the chance.
In Loyola’s first season in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2013-14, the Ramblers went 4-14 in conference play. In 2017-18 — four years later — Loyola finished conference play at 15-3, locked up the No. 1 seed in the tournament and is set to play in its first Arch Madness title game.
Senior guard Ben Richardson said he thinks getting to the championship is a testament to how far the program has come in the last four years of its rebuild.
“It’s really special,” Richardson said. “It’s what I’ve been looking forward to. It’s been all part of the plan to just try to take it one step at a time. We’re happy to be here and we’ll just try to do what we’ve been doing all year.”
Senior forward Aundre Jackson played in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament in 2016, and he said he hopes to use his experience to help the team play well under pressure.
“That feeling right there was amazing,” Jackson said. “All the schools were there [and] all the fans are there. Every time someone scored, the place went wild. It’s just a great feeling to [have] at a big tournament.”
The Arch Madness championship is scheduled for March 4 at 1 p.m.