Loyola capable of dropping Miami in NCAA opening round
Minutes after the long-awaited announcement flashed on the video screen Sunday at Gentile Arena, a pair of Loyola head coach Porter Moser's assistants made a beeline for the film room.
"I'll be joining them as soon as I'm finished with all of this," Moser said.
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985, 11th-seeded Loyola faces No. 6 Miami on Thursday afternoon in Dallas.
Don't be surprised if the Missouri Valley Conference champion Ramblers do some early bracket busting in the South Region.
Looking at their own team, Moser and his coaches see a tight-knit group that is riding a 10-game winning streak and has five players -- Clayton Custer, Donte Ingram, Marques Townes, Aundre Jackson and Jacobs High School product Cameron Krutwig -- averaging double digits in scoring.
"We've been talking about it all week," Moser said. "Everyone in the country sometimes says, 'It's a new season. Let's push the restart button.' We said the opposite. It's the same season, the same mentality.
"These guys believe, they really do. They're going to go after it as hard as they can. We're ready to go."
Looking at the Hurricanes, Loyola offered due respect to a team that competes in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference.
"We know we're going to play a good team," Custer said. "I watched Miami play a couple times and know they're going to try to get out there and run. They're long and athletic."
That is an accurate scouting report, but the Hurricanes lost four of their last eight games, including an 82-65 decision to North Carolina in the first round of the ACC Tournament last Thursday.
Miami jumped out to a 14-0 lead against the Tar Heels before completely collapsing.
The Hurricanes did beat four ranked teams during the season, while Loyola knocked off the only rated team (No. 5 Florida) it played.
"I know they're really good being in the ACC," Moser said of the Hurricanes. "I know they're always guarding, they're very athletic. We'll now more about them after we dig in."
Moser is very familiar with 68-year-old Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who guided George Mason to the NCAA Tournament five times and has the Hurricanes playing in March Madness for the fourth time.
"I have a ton of respect for Coach Larranaga," Moser said. "He's won everywhere he's been. All year long, we've shared the ball, and that's what we'll continue to do. But (the Hurricanes) are very athletic. We're going to have to defend and rebound."
Freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV (11.5 points per game) and 6-foot-11 sophomore forward Dewan Huell (11.4) are Miami's leading scorers, but sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. (11.4) is expected to miss the NCAAs with a left-foot injury.