March Madness’ Cinderella


Boning Zhang

You’ve gotta get special kids that believe they can win. This group, they’re all believers,”said Porter Moser, MVP Coach of the Year at Loyola Chicago, who led the Ramblers through a surreal 2017-18 season where the confidence of the whole team was tested.

Though their near-fanatic beliefs did not deliver them the final triumph, an NCAA Championship, they did not fail to demonstrate its incredible strength.

One of the many sources of the Ramblers’ belief comes from their chaplain Sister Jean whose presence at the game serves as a great spiritual boost. Spencer Turner ‘19 roots for the Ramblers and admires the dedication and passion demonstrated by Sister Jean: “I admire that a nun still watches and cheers for our team, it conveys incredible school spirit and that despite being 99 years of age, you can stick with something if you truly care about it.”

For the Ramblers, 2018 was indeed a year that required tremendous faith from all sources.

Having been unable to partici- pate in the NCAA tournament for 33 years, they came out of nowhere in 2018, finishing with an overall record

of 32-6, which secured them a spot to showcase themselves on a bigger stage in March.
As if their mere participation in March Madness was not miraculous enough, they upset the No.3 seed, Tennes- see, in the first round with Clay- ton Custer hitting an acrobatic fade-away with ten seconds left. Keeping their momentum high, the Ramblers advanced all the way to the Final Four. This was a place few predicted them to reach, simply because they had not advanced this far in 55 years.
In contrast to all the awe regarding their performance, coach Moser had expected such outcomes: “This is not something where it just started. These guys have been investing a long time in how hard they worked and how hard they believed.”

Spencer commented on the Ramblers’ astounding achievement: “When they advanced into the final four, it made me see a true underdog and realize that we should never count someone out until it is over.” However, a harsh reality sunk in at their battle against the Michigan Wolverines, where they were unable to cope with Moritz Wagner’s constant attack to the basket and rebounding. The Ramblers eventually fell short, 57-69.

Coach Moser, shaking off the bitterness of losing, immediately grant- ed the future stars of the team with leadership roles. As he told freshmen Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson: “You guys are the keepers of culture now”. Despite the miracle Ramblers pulled off last year, however, media mostly regards their accomplishment as a short-lived marvel, and holds pessimistic views toward their journey in this year’s March Madness.

ESPN staff writer Myron Medcalf said: “The fairy tale could come to an end. A team that lost three of its top six scorers could miss out on the title in a tough MVC (Missouri Valley Conference) and, with limited non-conference opportunities, miss the NCAA tournament.”

The emulative Ramblers respond- ed to such noises by maintaining their high Effective Field Goal Percentage (EFG%) and elite defense, as well as their claim of MVC title.

Cameron especially played up to his coach’s expectation. He had 16 points and six assists as Ramblers topped Bradley 81-68 to win the MVC regular-season title.

Will the young Ramblers eventually succumb to the immense pressure imposed on them, or will they prove that the shiny trophy is up for grab for anyone including them?

Spencer has hopeful words for the Ramblers: “This year I hope they can catch fire at the right time and give some tournament teams a run for their money.”