Men’s basketball season is upon us and as I’m sitting alone in the newsroom because my fellow sports editors Nick and Kyle are at the exhibition game against University of Indianapolis, I’ve decided to give you my thoughts for the upcoming season.
Keep in mind, I’ve yet to see them play.
1. Losing former guards Clayton Custer and Marques Townes to graduation isn’t going to be as big of a hit as everyone thinks it will.
The past two seasons were dominated by the pair, but honestly, the fixture of the offense is Cameron Krutwig. As important as Townes and Custer were, the offense ran through “King Krut.” The ball comes down the court and often the first pass is to Krutwig for the players to get in position. This play works with any guards and forwards, it doesn’t work without Krutwig.
The Ramblers also return Lucas Williamson, Bruno Skokna and Aher Uguak — all who know how to run through Krutwig. Bringing in eight new guys will be interesting, but again, this isn’t a difficult way to play.
2. Lacking Cooper Kaifes is going to take a toll.
The three point sharp shooter is out for the season with a torn labrum.
He was the fifth leading scorer on the team, sitting behind Townes, Krutwig, Custer and Uguak. An impressive feat as a first-year, he averaged 46.5 percent of his shots behind the arc — the most consistent on the team. Not having his three-point shot will make tallying up scores difficult for the Ramblers, especially without having Townes, who dominated last season.
This is where those eight new guys come in.
3. Having fresh blood is going to be the best thing for this team.
There’s only four players left from Loyola’s run to the NCAA Tournament Final Four. Having a roster filled with new faces could be beneficial for the Ramblers considering their opponents don’t know what to expect.
I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure how this season is going to go. It depends on how these new guys perform coming out of the gate. The plus side is three of them — Tate Hall, Keith Clemons and Jalon Pipkins — have played collegiately before.
The three first-years — Paxson Wojcik, Marquise Kennedy and Tom Welch — have all played together for the AAU Illinois Wolves. So we can assume they have chemistry. It’s just about how they click with everyone else on the roster.
This is the first year, post-Final Four, the Ramblers won’t have a target on their backs. Head coach Porter Moser needs to take advantage of that.
4. This is Lucas Williamson’s year.
Williamson has had an interesting collegiate career. His first year, he went to the Final Four and played in every single game. His second year, he was sidelined for 18 games due to a broken hand. Despite his injury, he still averaged 8.8 points per game and scored 140 points total. To put that in perspective, Bruno Skokna, who played in all but two games, scored 112.
Williamson is a solid player, both defensively and offensively. His first year, he was in the shadows of some really talented players and his second year, he had his injury. He has yet to have the opportunity to show how good he really can be. This is that year.
5. This is a building year and it’s okay if they don’t do well.
Both of Loyola’s Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Players of the Year have graduated. Donte Ingram, Ben Richardson and Aundre Jackson are all gone. It’s basically a new team.
Two years removed from the Final Four and it’s okay to not be MVC champions again. It’s a completely different team since then. It takes time to solidify a team. So, if the Ramblers finish middle of the conference, it won’t be the end of the world.
Loyola can use this season as a time to develop its new players and capitalize on it next year. If Krutwig was good as a first-year, imagine how good he’ll be as a senior. Krutwig and Williamson will captain a team that’s pruned and ready to perform.
Sometimes you have to lose a little to get the big wins. This season, it’s okay to be mediocre — and next year, the team can come out on fire.