Loyola-Chicago Earns Place Among All-Time Cinderellas with Trip to Final Four

Loyola continued its magical run Saturday. Now, the Ramblers are headed to the Final Four.

Loyola continued its magical run Saturday. Now, the Ramblers are headed to the Final Four.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Loyola of Chicago Ramblers arrived at the Big Dance with only a bit of attention. Four victories later, they’re guaranteed to leave March Madness as a legendary team.

Thanks to a 78-62 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats, the Ramblers earned a spot in the Final Four and secured their place in men’s college basketball history.

Loyola, the No. 11 seed in the South Regional, joined 1985-86 LSU, 2005-06 George Mason and 2010-11 VCU as the lowest seed to ever reach the national semifinals. That alone is reason enough for the Ramblers to be remembered in the annals of the NCAA tournament.

But because of how they kept surviving and advancing, Loyola will be one of the most memorable Cinderella stories.

On their way to the Elite Eight, the Ramblers edged sixth-seeded Miami just before the buzzer. They clipped No. 3 seed Tennessee when a jumper rattled home in the closing seconds. They buried No. 7 seed Nevada with a late three.

Based on margin of victory, this unexpected run is unparalleled in March Madness history.

Only 1980-81 Saint Joseph’s also won its first three games by a combined four points, per ESPN Stats & Info. But in the Elite Eight, that squad lost by 32 points. Loyola, on the other hand—with a trip to San Antonio at stake—led for the final 36 minutes of Saturday’s game.

The Ramblers left no doubt they deserved a spot in the Final Four.

One noteworthy point the coming years will determine is whether a specific player will be immortalized. That seems improbable, since Donte Ingram, Clayton Custer and Marques Townes all hit clutch shots and no player has consistently taken over games a la Stephen Curry for 2007-08 Davidson.

Granted, Sister Jean—the 98-year-old team chaplain whose likeness was featured on a collectible bobblehead—could fill that role.

Still, it’s more likely Loyola will be remembered for its collective success as a scarcely known mid-major program. 2005-06 George Mason and 2010-11 VCU also fit that description.

Really, that would be the most fitting legacy for Porter Moser’s team. For many—if not all—of these players, this will be the glory days story they tell their children and grandchildren.

Custer paced the Ramblers with 14 points in their opening game. Aundre Jackson’s 16 led the way during the second round. Townes notched a team-best 18 in the Sweet 16. Ben Richardson eclipsed his previous season high of 14 by pouring in 23 during the South Regional-clinching victory.

Loyola is team basketball exemplified. And given its coach’s path, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Moser utilizes concepts he learned from his former boss, Rick Majerus. The Ramblers showcase a free-flowing motion offense and a pack-line defense—a similar philosophy to what Virginia was decried for using because it “led” to a historic upset in the first round.

In the not-too-distant future, the 49-year-old Moser may be fielding calls from power-conference schools. That’s a common theme in the history of remarkable tournament runs.

Jim Larranaga—who oversaw George Mason’s surge—eventually headed to Miami, and he’s guided the Hurricanes to four of the 10 NCAA tournament bids in program history. Shaka Smart made VCU into an annual tourney qualifier prior to leaving for Texas.

But no matter whether Moser stays at Loyola for a long time, he’ll always be the coach of a legendary Cinderella journey.

Exactly where does this one rank all-time? That question will be debated now and in the future. But that’s not as important as one concurrent truth.

The glass slipper fit.

And now, Loyola is unforgettable.

Stats via Sports Reference and NCAA.com unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.