After winning the Missouri Valley, making the second weekend, and beating rival Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers lost Porter Moser to Oklahoma. While this comes as a blow, and losing Cameron Krutwig in the process is not ideal, hope is not all lost for Loyola-Chicago. They return four of five starters while defensive mastermind Drew Valentine becomes the new head coach. While regression seems in order, this Ramblers team still remains in position to make the NCAA Tournament going into this season.
The Ramblers made their mark defensively where they were one of the top defensive teams in the sport, so returning defensive stopper Lucas Williamson will be key. At 6’4, Williamson used his size to bother guards, while his goal each night was to guard and slow down the opponent’s best player. In addition to that, he provides the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter while he’s an underrated scorer. Braden Norris returns as the best offensive piece, while Krutwig was the motor offensively, Norris ran the show at the point and will do so this season. Norris is a good facilitator, defender, and a lights-out shooter, making him one of the most impactful players on the court.
Keith Clemons returns as one of the leading scorers, Clemons provides the ability to knock down shots from outside and has the ability to score inside as well. Marquise Kennedy provides some scoring pop at a third or fourth guard, he’s not a good shooter but is probably the best of the guards at attacking the basket and scoring. Aher Uguak provides Loyola-Chicago with their likely best option to play the 5, while he played limited minutes a season ago, he showed he’s a good inside defender which will be needed for a team losing their best interior player.
The Ramblers will not be shy when it comes to depth either, Ryan Schwieger will provide Loyola with an option at the 4 and one that can knock down threes at a high level. Chris Knight is a physical forward that was a good scorer at Dartmouth and could see a role of being a starting center for this team. Tate Hall provides size on the wing, which helps him on the defensive end, however, he’s somewhat limited offensively. Tom Welch also seems to be poised to play some minutes off the bench at a reserve forward.
Defensively, there should be no concerns when it comes to Loyola-Chicago. Their defenders are among the best in College Basketball and losing Cameron Krutwig and Porter Moser, while not great, won’t make a difference on that end. Drew Valentine will use the same defensive scheme and maybe if anything they’ll be able to be quicker and more athletic on that end.
Offensively is a concern though. The Ramblers, while analytic darlings, still faced possessions where they struggled but luckily for them, they had Krutwig to get them a bucket inside when nothing was going on. While the shooting is still there, I’m not sure they can get the same type of offensive creation as they had a year ago.
With Drew Valentine and a plethora of pieces back for Loyola-Chicago, this veteran group will know their roles and play them at a high level, so expect this team to outclass many teams they go against, especially in conference play. The offensive ceiling is certainly there, that said, this team will score enough baskets and defend well enough, meaning that this team will make it into the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
PG: Braden Norris
SG: Keith Clemons
SF: Marquise Kennedy
PF: Lucas Williamson
C: Aher Uguak
B1: Tate Hall
B2: Chris Knight
B3: Ryan Schwieger
B4: Tom Welch