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Introducing Cinderella: Loyola-Chicago earns first bid since 1985

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ConferenceMissouri Valley

CoachPorter Moser

Record28-5 (15-3 MVC)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 45
– RPI: 23
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding:  With the defections of Creighton and Wichita State, the Missouri Valley is a one-bid league for the foreseeable future, but it’s mostly well-regarded, despite the losses of the powerhouses, and the Ramblers cleared the field by four games. Their December win over Florida in Gainesville goes a ways, too. Right now, it looks like Loyola is headed to a 12, which will likely make them a trendy upset pick in plenty of brackets.

Names you need to knowClayton Custer started his career under Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, but the Kansas City native transferred out after a freshman season in which he rarely saw the floor. Since then, he blossomed into the MVC player of the year during a senior season in which he averaged 13.7 points, 4.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. Donte Ingram (11.4), Marques Townes (11.4), Aundre Jackson (11.0 and Cameron Krutwig (10.4) give the Ramblers five players averaging in double figures.

Stats you need to knowIf you don’t count CCNY, which dropped to Division III in 1963, Loyola has the fewest-ever NCAA tournament appearances for a program that owns a national championship. The Ramblers won the 1963 NCAA tournament, defeating Duke in the semifinals and Cincinnati in the title game, and made the field in three of the next five years before a 17-year hiatus and their return to the Big Dance in 1985, which was their last appearance.

Big wins, bad lossesThe win on the Gators’ home floor is unquestionably Loyola’s best, and it’s also the only KenPom top-100 win on their resume. Their only top-125 wins were their three against Northern Iowa, which tied for the second-worst record in the MVC. Their worst loss came just 10 days after beating Florida when they lost at Milwaukee, which ranks outside the top-200.

How’d they get here?Since a loss on the last day of January at Bradley, the Ramblers have reeled off 10-straight, including wins over UNI (54-50), Bradley (62-54) and Illinois State (XXXXX).

OutlookWith a veteran team (four of their top five players are upperclassmen) who shoots the lights out (40.1 percent outside the arc and 56.9 percent inside), Loyola has the profile of a team capable of winning a game – or two – should they get the right matchup and catch fire or at least shoot their average. If their opponent allows them to control the tempo, Loyola has a great shot at shortening the game and shooting their way into an upset.

How do I know you?Porter Moser is in his third stint as a head coach and second go-round in the MVC. He started at Arkansas-Little Rock before a four-year run at Illinois State from 2003-07. He then spent four years on the bench alongside Rick Majerus at St. Louis before getting another crack at the MVC with the Ramblers. He’s in his seventh season in Chicago and will be making his first-ever NCAA tournament appearance as a head coach.

Deontae Hawkins commits to Boston College

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Boston College got some much-needed help up front on Monday night.

According to Jon Rothstein, former Illinois State forward Deontae Hawkins will transfer to Boston College. The 6-foot-8 Hawkins is a graduate transfer, meaning he is eligible to play next season for the Eagles.

Hawkins led the Redbirds, one of the top teams that did not reach the NCAA Tournament, in scoring and rebounding averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 boards per game.

This is the second season in a row Jim Christian has tapped into the transfer market to fill his frontline. Mo Jeffers (Delaware) and Connar Tava (Western Michigan), the team’s two top rebounders during the 2016-17 season both elected to use their final seasons of eligibility at Chestnut Hill.

Hawkins began his career at Illinois State. He was part of the program for four seasons but only played three after he was ruled a non-qualifier by the NCAA as a freshman.

He’ll be the focal point of the frontline while Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman make up a quality backcourt for the Eagles.

Boston College has finished last in the ACC standings in each of Christian’s two seasons at the helm.

Report: Illinois State’s McIntosh suffers meniscus tear

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Illinois State’s dream start to Missouri Valley Conference play has hit adversity.

Second-leading scorer Mikyle McIntosh suffered a torn meniscus and is expect to miss three weeks, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The Redbirds are currently 10-0 in MVC play, with a home win over perennial league powerhouse Wichita State. They’ve got the Shockers again this weekend, meaning McIntosh. Based on the timetable, McIntosh could return for during the regular season for Illinois State, but, should the timetable hold, be safely available for the MVC tournament, which will likely determine the Redbirds’ postseason fate.

Illinois State has just two top-100 KenPom wins with the opportunity to pick up just two more in Valley play this season.

The 6-foot-7 junior  is averaging 13.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range this season.

Illinois State honors plane crash victims

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In early April the Illinois State athletic department was hit hard by tragedy, with a plane crash claiming the lives of seven people including two who worked for the school who were returning to the area from the Final Four.

Men’s basketball associate head coach Torrey Ward, deputy director of athletics Aaron Leetch, pilot Thomas Hileman, Scott Bittner, Terry Stralow, Andy Butler and Woodrow “Jason” Jones lost their lives in the plane crash a couple hours northeast of the regional airport in Bloomington, Illinois where the small plane was supposed to land. Saturday the school honored these seven men in a private ceremony.

The Redbird Remembrance memorial consists of seven columns in a fountain, with there also being a plaque and a wall with the seven names etched into it.

“We felt that we had a duty to honor these men, support their families and strengthen the Redbird bond,” Illinois State AD Larry Lyons said in the release. “The permanency of the memorial is to honor their legacy with dignity and respect, and we believe the design is comforting and peaceful. We picked this location so that it is accessible to the families, the campus and the community to reflect and remember.”

According to the school its athletes will also wear commemorative patches on their uniforms this academic year.

Illinois State forward suspended indefinitely after being sent home from team’s trip to Spain

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Illinois State is trying to build on last season’s NIT appearance and 22-win season and recently they embarked on a 10-day trip to Spain to play in four exhibition games. The Redbirds returned from that trip with a 3-1 record but the team also had to send home sophomore forward Deontae Hawkins, a source confirmed to

The 6-foot-8 Hawkins missed the final two games of the team’s trip as he was sent home to Dayton. According to Jim Benson of the Bloomington Pantagraph, Hawkins started fall semester classes on campus with his teammates on Monday, but he remains suspended. Having Hawkins back on campus after being sent home is a good sign that he will return to the team at some point.

It’s hard to say what Hawkins did to get sent home, but Illinois State could really use him this season as he was a key player down the stretch last season. During his freshman year, Hawkins played 22.4 minutes per game and averaged 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He started nine of the team’s final 11 games during the 2014-15 season.

Maryland headlines field for 2015 Cancun Challenge

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Another in-season tournament for the 2015-16 season has finalized its field, as the eight teams that will participate in the Cancun Challenge were announced Wednesday. Leading the way is Maryland, a team seen by many as the early favorites to win the Big Ten.

Head coach Mark Turgeon welcomes back key contributors such as guard Melo Trimble and forward Jake Layman, and he’ll also add both size and skill in the front court with the arrival of Diamond Stone and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr. being eligible after sitting out last season. Maryland, which is also the only team in the field to make the NCAA tournament last season, is joined in the Riviera Division by Illinois State, Rhode Island and TCU.

Maryland will face Illinois State in one of the Riviera Division semifinals November 24, with TCU and Rhode Island meeting in the other semifinal. The championship and third-place games will be played the following day.

Of those three expectations are highest for Dan Hurley’s Rhode Island squad, which won 23 games and played in the Postseason NIT last season. Rising juniors E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin return, as does rising sophomore Jared Terrell, and the Rams have some solid additions joining the rotation as well.

Illinois State just missed out on the NCAA tournament, losing to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title game, and TCU looks to account for the loss of point guard Kyan Anderson. Each of the four teams in the Riviera Division will play two home games against squads in the Mayan Division: Cleveland State, Houston Baptist, Rider and South Dakota State.

South Dakota State, which reached the Summit League title game last season, faces Houston Baptist in one Mayan Division semi with Cleveland State and Rider meeting in the other November 24 in Cancun.

Below is the complete schedule of games, with those being played in Cancun (November 24 & 25) in italics.

Nov. 19 – Houston Baptist at TCU; South Dakota State at Illinois State
Nov. 20 – Rider at Maryland
Nov. 21 – Cleveland State at Rhode Island
Nov. 24 – Mayan Division: South Dakota State vs. Houston Baptist; Rider vs. Cleveland State
Nov. 24 – Riviera Division: TCU vs. Rhode Island; Illinois State vs. Maryland
Nov. 25 – Mayan Division: Third-place and Championship games
Nov. 25 – Riviera Division: Third-place and Championship games
Nov. 28 – Cleveland State at Maryland
Nov. 29 – Rider at Rhode Island