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Loyola’s first season in Missouri Valley filled with unknowns

Loyolhead coach Porter Moser sends Munster native Joe Crisman back ingame near end first half Valparaiso University Wednesday night. |

Loyola head coach Porter Moser sends Munster native Joe Crisman back into the game near the end of the first half at Valparaiso University Wednesday night. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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SCHEDULE

Nov. 8 vs. Milwaukee 7

Nov. 12 at Tennessee Tech 7

Nov. 16 at Tulane 2

Nov. 19 vs. Rockhurst 7

Nov. 22 at Portland State-x 7:30

Nov. 23 vs. UC Davis-x 5

Nov. 24 vs. SIU Edwardsville-x 2

Dec. 1 at Mississippi State 12

Dec. 7 vs. UIC 3

Dec. 13 vs. Campbell 7

Dec. 18 vs. Northern Illinois 7

Dec. 23 at Fordham TBA

Jan. 1 at Indiana State 2

Jan. 5 vs. Missouri State 3

Jan. 8 vs. Southern Illinois 7

Jan. 11 at Illinois State 7

Jan. 15 vs. Drake 7

Jan. 18 at Evansville 1

Jan. 22 vs. Indiana State 7

Jan. 25 vs. Northern Iowa 3

Jan. 28 at Wichita State 7

Feb. 1 at Southern Illinois 3

Feb. 6 vs. Bradley 7

Feb. 9 vs. Illinois State 3

Feb. 12 at Northern Iowa 7

Feb. 15 at Drake 7

Feb. 19 vs. Wichita State 7

Feb. 22 at Bradley 7

Feb. 25 at Missouri State 7

March 1 vs. Evansville 3

x-Portland State tournament

ROSTER

2 Jordan Pickett Fr 6-0 G

4 Devon Turk So 6-4 G

5 Joe Crisman Jr 6-4 G

10 Cody Johnson So 6-10 C

22 Matt O’Leary So 6-8 F

23 Jeff White So 6-1 G

25 Nick Osborne So 6-8 F

30 Tanner Williams So 6-7 F

32 Christian Thomas Jr 6-5 F

33 Jeremy King Fr 6-10 C

34 Cal Kennedy Fr 6-6 F

35 Milton Doyle Fr 6-4 G

52 Tony Nixon Sr 6-4 G

Coach Porter Moser calls Loyola’s future in the Missouri Valley Conference a challenge of the unknown.

‘‘I think it will be like a beautiful, sunny spring day in Chicago, walking along the lake,’’ he said. ‘‘It looks great, and you think, ‘I can jump in the lake.’ Then you go in, and [it’s], ‘Oh! It’s really cold!’ I think there is going to be a transition of the unknown.’’

But it’s a challenge Moser embraces as a major step toward reviving the Ramblers’ stagnant basketball program.

‘‘Everything we do is about ascending this program,’’ said Moser, who is entering his third season at Loyola. ‘‘We’re so excited about this move. I think long term this is an absolute great thing for us, but it’s going to be a transition. We’re ready for it. They’ve made great upgrades in facilities here at Loyola and will continue to do so.’’

The MVC invited Loyola to join after losing traditional power Creighton to the new Big East. The change was a plus for the conference, especially in terms of opening the Chicago market, specifically to the MVC’s other Illinois schools (Bradley, Illinois State and Southern Illinois).

The MVC also features Wichita State, a mid-major darling that reached the Final Four last season. The Shockers became the first MVC team to go that far since 1979, when Larry Bird led Indiana State to the NCAA championship game. Wichita State is the preseason favorite to win the conference.

Moser, who played at Creighton and previously coached at Illinois State, knows the historically competitive conference raises the bar for his team.

‘‘It’s a great rivalry league and very difficult to win on the road,’’ he said. ‘‘Everywhere you go, the atmosphere feels like college basketball. On the road, the upperclassmen usually grab the young guys who have never been in an arena and say, ‘This is how it goes.’ But there’s an unknown now for all of them.’’

The Ramblers have no scholarship seniors and only two juniors. Those two, guard Joe Crisman and forward Christian Thomas, will carry the leadership roles.

‘‘From the first time I stepped on campus, Coach expected me to take that role,’’ said Crisman, one of Loyola’s best defenders. ‘‘Now that I’m a junior, it’s important for me to show these guys how we do things, the culture, and to go after it every day.’’

Thomas emerged last season as the Ramblers’ surprise star. He started every game and averaged 14.9 points and seven rebounds in Horizon League play.

‘‘It was something I always wanted and something I set my eyes on from the beginning, so I took advantage of the opportunity,’’ he said. ‘‘It made me hungrier because I got a small taste of success. Unfortunately, I wasn’t voted to the all-league team in the Horizon League. That made me want it even more coming into this new conference, to show I can play.’’

The team also features four sophomores who played last season and five players new to the program in 6-4 freshman Milton Doyle from Marshall, 6-10 sophomore transfer Cody Johnson, 6-10 freshman Jeremy King, 6-6 freshman Cal Kennedy and 6-0 freshman Jordan Pickett.

‘‘We’re going into unknown territory with a lot of young guys,’’ Moser said. ‘‘But there are nine teams that have no familiarity with us, so that can be a plus for us.’’

NEXT: Northwestern

Email: tginnetti@suntimes.com

Twitter: @toniginnetti



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