College basketball is — unofficially — back.
Men’s and women’s basketball coaches from the five Chicago area Division I schools spoke about the upcoming seasons at the Chicagoland Tip-off Luncheon Oct. 21. The event, which took place at Maggiano’s in downtown Chicago, marks the unofficial start of the college basketball season.
Men’s Basketball Battles ‘Injury Bug’
The Loyola men’s basketball team is limping into the start of the upcoming season. While the focus of the Chicagoland Tip-Off Luncheon was on returning players Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson, Loyola head coach Porter Moser also said the team will be without several players entering the year.
Moser said the team is currently without Keith Clemons, Franklin Agunanne and Cooper Kaifes.
Moser said Clemons suffered a meniscus injury and is expected to be out four to six weeks. He also confirmed Agunanne is out with a thumb injury and there’s no timetable for his return.
Clemons was projected to be the starting point guard for the Ramblers this season, but the injury opens the door for other players to gain playing time, according to Moser.
“Marquise Kennedy, we’re looking at it like he’s going to get thrown into the fire,” Moser said at the luncheon. “He’s going to get a lot of minutes early.”
Kennedy is a first-year guard who was rated as a three-star prospect by 247sports.com. Moser also mentioned Tate Hall, a transfer player from the University of Indianapolis who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, as another new addition who could receive more minutes.
Kaifes suffered a torn labrum in his hip early in the summer and it was announced he would miss the entire upcoming season. At the luncheon, Moser said Kaifes could potentially return three weeks into January, but he “wouldn’t do that to the kid.”
Women’s Basketball Continues to Rebuild
The women’s basketball team is entering the fourth year of head coach Kate Achter’s five-year rebuild. Achter said the goal for this upcoming season is to make some type of postseason tournament, while the goal for next year’s fifth and final year of the rebuild is to make the NCAA Tournament.
Achter said the team is looking at lesser notable postseason tournaments, such as the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) or the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI), before making the jump toward the NCAA Tournament.
However, Loyola was picked to finish seventh out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll. Achter said she believes her team is capable of a better finish than seventh place, but coaches, school information directors and media members projected another bottom-half finish in the MVC for the Ramblers.
The Ramblers will have five first-year players this season, led by Jala Johnson, who was named the Northwest Ohio Division I Player of the Year.
“That’s what’s going to push us over the edge,” Achter said about the incoming class of first-year players. “If this class can contribute to us at all, which we think they can and that’s why we recruited them, then I think we’re going to be alright.”
The men’s basketball season starts Nov. 5 against the University of California, Davis. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3 or ESPN+. The women’s team starts its season against the University of Detroit Mercy. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.