With the Ramblers’ 2021 March Madness tip-off only hours away, fans around the country are making their plans for game time. Some may be watching Loyola men’s basketball as casual observers, while others may have been making their predictions days prior.
Some say Loyola will most likely fall to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the second round. Others firmly believe anything is possible. Regardless of how far they think the Ramblers will take this year’s run, there’s one opinion widely shared among Loyola fans — the team deserved higher than the No. 8 seed it was given.
Sam Dobschuetz, a 1998 alum, said he believes part of the reason Loyola was seeded lower than many expected is because the team is still gaining recognition. He said schools like No. 1-seeded Gonzaga University have earned a national reputation through the years, and Loyola is in the process of building that right now.
Dobschuetz, who has followed the team since his first year as a student at Loyola in 1994, also said he thinks the team’s potential second round matchup against No. 1-seeded Illinois doesn’t feel fair. He said it feels like the game would just end up being an easy way to knock Loyola out of the tournament quickly.
Dylan Conover, a 2017 alum, said he’s also been following Loyola basketball since his first year at the university in 2013. He said it’s always nice to see your school — especially a mid-major — get represented in the tournament, but the No. 8 didn’t seem fair.
“I think Loyola was much better than an eight seed,” Conover said. “I think they got a little hosed by the [NCAA] committee, I thought they deserved more like a six or seven [seed]. I know it’s only a difference of one, but when you’re talking paths to the Sweet Sixteen and Final Four, you’d much rather be a seven … or a 10 than an eight.”
Conover said he also foresees Loyola becoming a team that can make more consistent bids to the NCAA Tournament in the coming years.
Steven Winkler, a resident of Rogers Park for the last 25 years, said he’s followed Loyola off and on as long as he’s lived in the area, but lately has watched the team more closely. He said in his opinion, the Ramblers are a top-10 team and deserved better.
Looking at Loyola’s first game against the Georgia Institute of Technology, Conover said he thought Loyola would win regardless, but now feels more sure since Georgia Tech will be without Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year Moses Wright. He said as soon as Loyola was set to play Georgia Tech on Selection Sunday, he immediately began scouting them.
“I even watched the whole replay of the ACC Championship,” Conover, 26, said. “They like to play fast [and] scrappy, and if Loyola’s not doing what it does well, I think we’re gonna have some trouble. But … with Moses Wright being out, I don’t think they’re going to have a good answer for [Cameron Krutwig].”
If the Ramblers were to win over Georgia Tech March 19, they would most likely be facing off against Illinois later in the weekend. Conover said he thinks Loyola would lose this game, but not by a massive margin.
Winkler, going against most professional predictions, said he thinks Loyola has proven it’s a tough team to beat and therefore the second round could go either way.
“I think [Loyola] could make a run this year, there’s no reason to think not,” Winkler, 55, said. “They’re a very good team, they’re very well-coached … and I think they’re as good as anyone from what I can tell.”
Dobschuetz said he’s enjoyed hearing commentators say Loyola has “no chance” against a team like Illinois because that’s what people said during the Ramblers’ 2018 run. He said Loyola has a great defense and if the team can somehow pull off a win against Illinois, it could become unstoppable.
“I could see where they slow it down and before you know it, they’re within a bucket, and they score a bucket,” Dobschuetz, 45, said. “I think they could pull the upset, and if they [do], I think they could go back to the Final Four.”
Loyola is set to tip-off against Georgia Tech March 19 at 3 p.m CST in Indianapolis, Ind. The game is scheduled to be broadcast on TBS.