Guest Column: Loyola Chicago – A stint in the Valley

Excited to share a listener submitted column featured here on the marchtothearchpodcast.com.


Sam Donets @CptnDonuts

I will admit – I was mad online the moment I saw “The Athletic” news alert.  It caught me and I’m sure every Missouri Valley Conference fan off guard. Not even the Loyola fans I follow on Twitter knew about their interest in joining the Atlantic-10 conference. 

The news hurts. But should I be mad that they are leaving for possible greener pastures? No. Why? Because Loyola’s administration at the time made a comment about their commitment to better the Rodger Park campus when they replaced Creighton University in 2013. That administration had a plan and executed better than anyone would have thought by putting emphasis on creating a culture around a strong athletic program that would eventually compete at a national level. Not just basketball, but all sports. 

Think about it – Joining the A-10 makes absolute sense for the Ramblers. Since joining the Valley, they spent wisely on facilities, coaches, and its student athletes. Thus, creating a juggernaut that has major conference afraid of scheduling them during the regular season. 

In 2012, The Valley was still at its absolute best with nationally ranked Creighton, and the renaissance Wichita State was going through with future NBA talents Fred Van Fleet and Ron Baker. Indiana State was also looking good coming off a tournament appearance the year before. 

But with the expectation of the Big East splitting into two conferences, Creighton was a clear-cut favorite to help establish the city-based Jesuit league that will feature the likes of Butler, Xavier, Depaul, and Marquette.  

Several years later it was Wichita State’s turn to move up the college basketball ranks and bolted for the expanding American Athletic Conference that also featured similar school profiles. Creighton was poached and never looked back. Wichita State was poached, but a case can be made on if it was really the right move. In my opinion it was.

It was 2012, we as Valley fans hated that Creighton was leaving, but didn’t bat an eye because of the Shocker’s success mixed with an up-and-coming Indiana State team and Northern Iowa squad that was trending upwards. Once it was announced that the Shockers were leaving in 2017, it was a slightly different story. Since the replenishing options shall we say – not the best?  

I digress. 


It came time for the committee to start looking for a 10th member of the Valley. Schools from all over the country were calling Doug Elgin’s office to hear more about the MVC’s newly established ESPN TV deal and how they can join. The list was narrowed down to several decent options with plenty of pluses and minuses. The Ohio Valley’s Murray State Racers, The Horizon League’s Illinois-Chicago Flames, Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, and eventual invitee and HL celler dwellers- Loyola University Chicago. 

On April 19th, 2013, Doug Elgin and the MVC Presidents announced that they had extended an invitation to the Ramblers, which they gladly accepted. Little did we know that an exciting new era was about to begin the following season.  

Loyola had big shoes to fill replacing Creighton. By no means were they like the Blue Jays. They weren’t really known outside of the Horizon League or Chicago circles. Cult following to the highest degree that dreamt of returning to greatness they once had in early 60’s. 

They had somewhat outdated facilities and were struggling to bring students to campus. From a MVC fan prospective, NOTHING was expected from them other than being the new guys everyone can beat up on. In the back of our heads we all thought Loyola was only brought in for the market they play in and to cater to the high concentration of Valley school alumni in the area.  

Since joining the Valley in 2013 – 

The Ramblers recently made a big-time name hire for their women’s basketball program with WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes. On the Men’s side, they were fully committed to a familiar Valley face in former Illinois State head coach Porter Moser. The women’s team wasn’t much to write home about during Swoopes 3-years as head coach of the Ramblers.

Moser often the butt of many jokes after only winning six total Horizon League games the previous two seasons brought back bad memories for the many Illinois State faithful that disliked him. It was just so easy to root against him. Especially if you personally knew how great he is as a person.  

It felt insulted, by Doug Elgin and the MVC presidents to the point that we were being dupped by The Onion. We couldn’t believe the MVC school presidents turned down a solid Murray State program that had geographical and educational fit with the league.   

We mocked Loyola for having the smallest gym in the league and the lack of modern amenities you’d see at other Valley schools. We mocked them for having Porter Moser leading their men’s basketball team. We bashed them for having the smallest gym that was comparable to some Southern Illinois high school field houses that featured bowl seating for 2,500 fans.  

On many of the fan forums, everyone agreed that Loyola was going to be the Valley’s version of Northwestern. A chance for Chicago based alums from Bradley, Drake, Illinois State, and Southern Illinois to see their team play in person without having to drive several hours. A chance for visiting school fans to come watch a league game and party like they were in college in again and leave with a road win. 


At my first game at the Gentile Arena, the Salukis dominated the Ramblers. My friends and I, maybe a year or two out of school were clearly the loudest people there. We were by far the most inebriated and probably outnumbered their fan base. We chanted Bryan Mullins name every time the Ramblers went to the free throw line. We heckled the Rambler’s miniscule student crowd, poked fun at Porter’s coaching career with the Red Birds and showed our love for attending a public school. 

After that game and every SIU/LUC game after that, Porter Moser himself would come up us and commended us for our passion and genuinely thank us for coming out to support the Salukis.   

We left that first night feeling really good and excited that Loyola was now part of the Missouri Valley tradition.   

Over the next few years, you can see what was happening in Rogers Park. The Rambler’s Athletic Department followed through with their plans to build a new culture on campus. They were committed the Men’s basketball program and gave Moser the keys to the Kingdom. 

Year by year he would recruit higher talent. Chicago native and Kansas transfer Milton Doyle was the first step. Clayton Custer, Ben Richardson and Maruques Townes came in via the transfer portal. And then it happened – the greatest signing class in school history brought in Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson. 

Year by year they moved up the ranks. The Gentile Arena was quickly filling up. In the first-year post Wichita State, the Ramblers made its mark surprising everyone on its way to the Final Four.

The Valley thought it lost a cash cow in Wichita State. Out of nowhere Loyola that was brought in to replace Creighton in 2013, was in the tournament and outperforming the MVC’s previous cash cows with a storybook run on the biggest stage in March.  

Loyola did everything it could to keep Porter Moser around, and re-invested every dollar they made off their Final Four and NIT appearances.  

The Facilities on campus were improved, and so was the attitude of the student body and administration. Something some other MVC schools should take note of. 

Let me repeat – Loyola’s admin reinvested every dollar they earned and made sure they weren’t a one hit wonder. 

Fast forward a few years later and now Loyola is considered the crown jewel of MVC basketball. The team that was a joke coming in, turned out to be the peacock that wanted to fly.


In a wild era of NCAA conference re-alignment, the Valley had to make a move to keep up and stay competitive. Newly installed Commissioner Jeff Jackson made a big splash within a month of taking over by bringing in Ohio Valley Conference powerhouse Belmont University as the 11th member of the MVC. Everything was trending upwards for the Valley as it posed to become the 7th best basketball conference in the nation behind the Power-5 and the Big East.

The 2020/21 season was supposed to be signature year. The high return rate of star players coming back thanks to a one-time eligibility rule change that granted an extra-year of eligibility due to the pandemic. This with the addition of Belmont next year, the Valley became a force in Division-1 basketball.  

But this is a business and Loyola was ready for its next challenge join the realignment carousel when the Atlantic 10 came calling. The A-10, a  conference with mostly urban based private schools made its case to lure Loyola out of the small pond it was in and to join a basketball centered league with similar profiles. The A-10 has more nationally recognized schools then the Valley and feature a bevy of teams that routinely compete at the highest level every year. It’s the multi-bid league Loyola needs of they want to grow their desire to be a national brand through athletics.   

Do I blame Loyola for joining the A-10, no because it is the right move for them. As a fan of the Valley whom lives in Chicago, I absolutely hate it. But only because I won’t be able to make a yearly trip to the north side of Chicago to see the Salukis in person.


MJ and Valley Hoops – 2 Degrees of Separation

To find some new topics – on the podcast I’ve asked Baker to randomly pick pages from old MVC media guides that I’ve acquired over the years to write blogs about. I’ll hopefully do more of this throughout the year as I truly enjoy diving into MVC history and seeing what I can uncover.


From the 1988-1989 Missouri Valley Conference media guide and page 50 – you’ll see the page below with the caption:

Stan Albeck had things pointing his way during Bradley’s MVC championship season a year ago”

Stan Albeck was born in Chenoa, IL so it’s not a big stretch that he had a three-year playing career at nearby Bradley University. It’s interesting that because of his service in Vietnam his playing career for the Braves was in two phases – 1950-1952 and 1954-1955.

That gets us our 1 degree of separation – even though Bradley was an independent for two of Albeck’s seasons. We can bolster that degree by adding on Coach Albeck’s coaching career at Bradley – which spanned five seasons and a 75-71 overall record. This span included the 1987-88 season with Hersey Hawkins and the #11 ranked Braves winning both the regular season and MVC tournament championship. The 9 seed Bradley Braves were beat in the opening round by the 8 seeded Auburn Tigers of the 1988 NCAA Tournament.

The rich college basketball history for Bradley Basketball anchored in part by Hersey Hawkins might not have been if for Stan Albeck. As reported by the Peoria Journal Star – Hawkins was all but on his way to Villanova after the departure of Dick Versace. Albeck’s history in the NBA and up-tempo style is what kept Hawkins at Bradley – which in turn would highlight his talents. It worked as expected, Hawkins averaged 27 points a game in Albeck’s first year. Then becoming a first-team all-American the previously mentioned 1987-88 season.

On to 2nd degree – that any Chicago Bulls fan knew from the beginning – Stan Albeck coached the 1985-86 Chicago Bulls. That season was Michael Jordan’s second season with the Bulls but he missed 64 games with a broken foot seeing action in only 21 games. However, the 30-52 Chicago Bulls made the playoffs and MJ put up a record 63 points in game 2 of the playoffs versus the Boston Celtics – who went on the sweep the Bulls on their way to becoming World Champions. With former Indiana State Sycamore, Larry Bird saying about that 63 point game, “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” Albeck coached for only one season before being fired by Jerry Krause one-time Bradley student.

Go Valley!


One Stop Shop – Valley Hoops Previews

Growing up – one of my favorite fall activities was going to the local grocery store (shout out Big John’s) when the college basketball preview magazines hit the shelves. Take your pick from Athlon, Lindy’s or Sporting News and you could find, at most, one page devoted to the MVC and in some this little blurb on 1/4 of a page. This might have influenced my general disdain with the Power 5 at a young age. However, I would normally flip through the magazine and see which one picked the Salukis higher and that’s the one I would buy.

With the internet that experience has changed – as Valley fans we have a treasure trove of previews to dive into other’s thoughts on the 21-22 season. My hope is to aggregate the online previews available for Valley Hoops fans to consume. Regardless – I still get that same feeling when these previews start to come out as when younger Vance stepped on the mat of Big John’s grocery store on my way to pick up the Athlon and Lindy’s magazine. College basketball season is just around the corner.

Let me know if there’s any I have missed as this will list will evolve as the season approaches.


Missouri Valley Conference Previews

Three Man Weave

Starring at the Floorboards – Jordan Majeskey March to the Arch Interview on Spotify

Busting Brackets

Saluki Insider

Nothing But Nylon

Team Previews


ESPN College GameDay – Jan 6, 2008

Saturday, February 13, 2021 –  College GameDay is going to feature Sister Jean to preview the Drake – Loyola series. A series that will likely determine the fate of the MVC Regular Season Championship. 

Although College GameDay has discussed Valley teams over the years only one school had hosted College GameDay.

The Southern Illinois Salukis

On January 26, 2008 – The College GameDay crew including; Reece Davis, Hubert Davis, Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps came to Carbondale before the Creighton Bluejays battled the SIU Salukis.

I’ve mentioned it on the podcast in the past but the experience was unbelievable. At the time I was a manager for the Salukis so I was able to get a ground level view of the production.

As you can notice most of my pictures were taken on a digital camera without a stabilization feature. That same camera is likely somewhere in the bowels of Gatsbys II on the Carbondale Strip.

A few of my favorite highlights from the day:

  • My #1 memory was Hubert Davis. I’ll never forget when he walked into SIU Arena (pre-renovation) for the first time. I happened to be down on the court and remember him just looking around the arena, which included the wooden bleachers in the upper bowl and the Reece’s Pieces color scheme lower bowl. His first comment out of his mouth was “Wow, now this is cool and a true college basketball environment.”
  • The hosts really interacted with he fans. As they counted down before going on air either at the opening or from commercial breathy always talked to the fans to get them pumped up.

  • Digger Phelps signed his autograph with “Go Irish!”

  • During the broadcast they highlighted defensive drills with Coach Lowery. The non-scholarship, freshmen and redshirts were the ones that participated so that the others could rest for the game.
  • Coach Lowery used College GameDay as a motivator. That season the SIU/Creighton rivalry was on the down swing. After a bad stretch of games a common remark would be that “ESPN could always change their mind.”
 

As you can see in the video below, I was very excited for GameDay to be in Carbondale (9:27). 

Before getting to the game just take a look at these Valley standings as of 1/26/08. 

  1. Drake
  2. Illinois State
  3. Indiana State
  4. Creighton
  5. SIU
  6. Southwest Missouri State
  7. Northern Iowa
  8. Bradley
  9. Wichita State
  10. Evansville

The 2007-08 season would have been Gregg Marshall’s first year with the Shockers. The Drake Bulldogs (like this year) was a household name with their national ranking and 5 seed in the NCAA tournament later that year, after winning MVC regular season and Arch Madness. 

As for the game, it was televised on ESPN2 and Jay Bilas, Dan Shulman and Erin Andrews were on the call.

After completing zero research, I’m confident that the Creighton – SIU game was the lowest scoring game of a College GameDay host.

The 48-44 SIU victory highlighted a return to “Floorburn U” for the Salukis. In the second half the Bluejays went almost 13 minutes without a field goal, missing seven shot and committing eight turnovers. This allowed the Salukis to erase a 10-point deficit led by Saluki Seniors Matt Shaw (16), Bryan Mullins (13) and Randal Falker (7).

Creighton was lead by Booker Woodfox (11) and Kenny Lawson Jr. (9).

This was the 9th win over the Bluejays for the Salukis in their last 10 meetings.

Box Score


Oscar Robertson

Didn’t expect to write a blog about a founding member of the college basketball Hall of Fame the same week that The Valley added another (Hersey Hawkins – ’21 HOF Class). 

I will mention that Oscar Robertson is one of those players that I know very little about, due to my tenure as a Valley fan, but always wanted to do more research on. 

Since they are no longer a Valley member, I think its important to start with the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati was a member institution from 1957-1969 (12 seasons). Representing The Valley, they made the Final Four in five straight seasons, winning in 1961 and 1962 beating Ohio St. both years. Interesting enough they made the National Championship game in 1963 losing to current Valley member Loyola-Chicago.

Oscar joined the Bearcats for the three varsity seasons (1957-1960). He led Cincinnati to two Final Four appearances and at that time there was a third place game in which they won in both 1961 and 1962. After only three seasons, freshman were ineligible in those days, he was the NCAA leading scorer and essentially created the triple-double statistic. 

In Valley play during Oscar’s reign, the Bearcats only lost three games (39-3), all to Bradley. 

He has a lasting legacy on college basketball, where annually the USBWA awards the Oscar Robertson Trophy. This trophy has been won by two Valley players, Larry Bird (1979) and Doug McDermott (2014). 

Seriously, check out this rebounding by Oscar. Can you imagine how many flagrant fouls he would have had in the Jackie Carmichael era?

In conclusion, Oscar Robertson, had a storied college career, was an Olympian, and a successful professional career with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks. 

His impact on college basketball spans the entire NCAA. Personally, when walking around the concourse of the Enterprise Center each March, I’ll make sure to stop at the the Oscar Robertson banner to reflect on him putting The Valley on the map. 


1989 BasketBrawl Shockers vs. Sycamores

A lot of my blogs will be what I deem interesting stories or facets of Valley Hoops. They could be old videos (like this one), historical articles/research or personal stories. Feel free to leave comments on the article or share anything I might have missed. Go Valley! 

After Larry Bird graduated in 1979, the ’80s were not so good to the Indiana State Sycamores in the Valley.

The best result in that decade was a tie for fifth place with 8 wins and 8 losses in 1980. The Sycamores saw four coaching changes. Bill Hodges was the head coach for the national runner-up team (78-82), followed by Dave Schellhase (82-85), Ron Greene (85-89) and Tates Locke (89-94). 

Let’s turn to the 1988-89 season. The Sycamores had lost 14 straight games prior to hosting Wichita State on February 23, 1989. Not only were they on a losing streak, the day before the game head coach Ron Green had announced he would be stepping down at the end of the season. 

Then this happened in the first half.

After legendary MVC official Jim Bain sorted things out, nine Sycamores and one Shocker were ejected. 

Even more ridiculous, the Sycamores had to play the entire second half with four players and outscored the Shockers 44-43. In the final minute of the game two Sycamore fouled out and end the game with two players on the court. 

Final Score: Wichita State 84   Indiana State 69

For more coverage of this game:
https://www.kansas.com/sports/college/wichita-state/article1148056.html
https://tulsaworld.com/archive/isu-doesn-t-play-with-full-deck-ejections-lead-to/article_962dea4c-52a2-52eb-9fef-5c0ffabe5773.html

 


Welcome to the Online Home of the March to the Arch Podcast

New for our second season in the podcast world is an online home for The March to the Arch Podcast. In addition to a home for our podcasts, we plan to blog from time to time and provide some resources/links for Valley fans to consume more Valley Hoops. 

For me, I think back to the early to mid-2000s when the Salukis were staples on the Selection Sunday bracket. Each week, I’d find myself battling dial-up Internet to refresh the latest Lunardi Bracketology or any article with “Mid-Major” in it (with frustration with all the Gonzaga coverage). I still do it to this day. I hope that some of the blogs and stories shared will be new to Valley fans and provide another outlet to their Valley fandom. 

Start Talking About the Valley