March Madness: Kansas, Michigan, Villanova and Loyola-Chicago have made it to the final four
This past weekend, Final Four tickets were punched by college basketball’s best. Next week in San Antonio, Texas, the University of Michigan, Loyola University Chicago, Villanova University and the University of Kansas will face off with a chance at the national title.
In what has been a chaotic and surprising tournament, three national powerhouses have reached the tourney’s final weekend. However, the presence of Loyola is a huge shock to the college basketball landscape. The team entered the postseason as the No. 11 seed in the South Region. They got off to a quick start pulling off an upset over the University of Miami, 64-62. Senior guard Donte Ingram hit a three-pointer at the buzzer which capped the victory over the Hurricanes. Ingram scored 13 points overall, to go along with seven rebounds. The last-second magic would continue for the Ramblers in the round of 32. In a battle with the No. 3 seeded University of Tennessee Volunteers, Loyola found itself in a similar contest to the one against Miami. Down by one point with a few seconds to play, junior guard Clayton Custer converted on a shot against difficult defense. With his man draped all over him, Custer lifted a jumper with 3.6 seconds left. The ball took an extremely friendly bounce off the rim, and then backboard, and somehow fell through to give Loyola a one-point lead that it would hold on to. By the time of Loyola’s upset, the top four seeds in the South Region had been eliminated, giving Loyola optimism going into the Sweet 16.
The squad was faced with another hot team, the University of Nevada. Nevada had been one of the most exciting teams in the tournament thanks to its twin junior forwards Caleb and Cody Martin. In a fast-paced contest, the Martins combined for 37 points in a game they almost won. Loyola battled back all night against an explosive opponent. Custer performed impressively again, scoring 15 points along with four assists and three steals. Once again, Loyola found itself in another tightly contested matchup. Junior guard Marques Townes was the hero this time, as he was the one with the ball in his hands in the game’s closing seconds. Holding on to a mere one-point lead, Townes launched a three-pointer that fell to the bottom of the net as the shot clock expired. Nevada then hit a three, and Loyola walked away with the one-point victory.
After the win against Nevada, Loyola rolled into the Elite Eight against Kansas State University. This was a unique moment in March Madness history, as it was the first Elite Eight that ever pitted a No. 11 seed against a No. 9 seed. However, unlike in previous games, Loyola did not allow its opponent to stay close, blowing the gates open as they won a decisive victory 78-62. Every game in the tournament thus far has featured a different star for the Ramblers, and senior guard Ben Richardson had his moment against Kansas State. Richardson exploded for a career-high 23 points and also recorded six rebounds and four assists in a game-high 36 minutes of action. Townes and Ingram had 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Loyola has become an internet sensation, obviously due its run in the tournament but also thanks to its team chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean. As the cameras have constantly shown, Sister Jean sits in a wheelchair next to Loyola’s bench cheering and applauding the team on. Pictures and videos of her have gone viral as the team has continued to succeed.
Next up, Loyola will face off against Michigan in the Final Four. Michigan has been on its own impressive run, winning four games in the Big Dance after claiming the Big Ten Tournament title. The winner will play whoever wins the matchup between Villanova and Kansas.