Loyola Men’s Basketball: Big Changes Result in a Challenging Season for the Ramblers

Photo by Natalie Bartel

By: Marisa Panella (Loyola Sophomore) and Natalie Bartel (Loyola Freshman) 

After a close game against Rhode Island on Wednesday, March 1st, the final buzzer blared and disappointed Rambler fans filed out of Gentile Arena. Loyola’s beloved basketball team had lost their final home game of the season. 

The Loyola men’s basketball team faced a tough year with a 9 – 20 record.  Many attribute the team’s poor record to the abundance of changes that the basketball program has faced within the past few years. Along with a fairly new coaching staff and many new players, the Ramblers also joined the highly competitive Atlantic 10 conference. The aftermath of these decisions has been quite challenging for the team at Loyola, causing many to question where exactly things went wrong.

The Atlantic 10 is a fierce league that includes universities like VCU, Fordham, Dayton, George Mason,  and more. Loyola has not yet found success in this league as they approach the end of their season, ranking last in the A10 conference. 

In the contrasting 2021-2022 season, the Ramblers found great success in the Missouri Valley Conference, even advancing to the NCAA March Madness Tournament. The team has since lost leading scorers like Lucas Williamson and Aher Uguak, however, which has shown to be a challenge for the Ramblers. 

The 2022-2023 team has many new, young players. Freshmen and Sophomores such as Ben Schwieger and Jalen Quinn have been regularly gracing the starting five. With four new transfers, five freshmen, and a different program, the Ramblers have an opportunity to create a new team dynamic and grow as a cohesive unit.

The potential for the Ramblers to succeed is undoubtedly within reach as we have seen numerous close games this season. Fans are hopeful that this season was a learning opportunity that will eventually launch the Ramblers back to the top. 

To get a gauge on what the Rambler fans thought of the season and what they think contributed to its losses, we asked fans, “Where do you think the Ramblers went wrong?”

We started at the source by interviewing current team member Phillip Alston.

Forward Phillip Alston (Loyola Junior) recognizes the team faced many challenges but also that they have room for growth.  He said, “It’s a whole new team.  I think we just had a lot of learning to do.  I think for next year, just coming together and taking in the coaching would definitely help.” 

Alston said, “I feel like we still push each other very hard every day in practice. We want to win every game and still believe that we can win every game.  I feel like that’s just because of the culture that Loyola has.  I just feel proud of us for just staying with it, honestly.” 

The general consensus among fans was that it was a tough season with room for improvement.

Gentile Employee and Loyola Freshman Noah Dabney said, “I feel like where the ramblers went wrong is honestly just choking at the end of the game. I feel like sometimes they can’t keep their composure and I feel like they have to close out their games more.” 

Fellow Gentile employee and Loyola Freshman Taylor Shields expressed a similar idea; the team struggles with consistency throughout games. 

“I feel they get too excited and then they end up getting in their heads. Then, they can’t calm down at the end of the game and that’s where they lose it.”

Along with opinions on game composure, fans also agreed that the newness of the 2022-2023 Ramblers had a large effect on this season’s outcomes. 

Sophomore Mara Collins recognized that the 2022-2023 Ramblers are a new, young team who have things to learn as a group. “I think personally that our team is just very new. We have a bunch of new players and they haven’t found their compatibility with each other yet or that team bonding aspect. I think they just need to communicate more and find that compatibility with each other,” Collins said.

Rambler fan Connor Moore (27) doesn’t think the Ramblers went wrong.  He acknowledged it was a tough season in a challenging conference while expressing hope for seasons to come. 

“I don’t think so much that they went wrong.  I think it might have been just an adjustment to a bigger, stronger conference. The A10 is much bigger and much better than the previous one. So, I think it’s that, but give it a year or two and I think they’ll be competitive.”

Senior Margaret Cronin is excited for future seasons and has great faith that the Ramblers will learn and grow following this season. 

“It has definitely been a tough transition to a new conference, especially with a fairly young team after four of our starting players graduated last year,” said Cronin. “I am confident this is a transition year for the ramblers. They will continue to improve and make it next year.”

The assumption that the new conference is to blame for the struggling basketball team was disputed when we asked a junior shooting guard on the men’s basketball team what he thought the team struggled with this season. 

Sheldon Edwards Jr. said, “I feel like we would have struggled regardless of which conference we were in. Yeah, that has to do with the record and how good we are, but at the same time, we’ve had 9 new guys come in this year. I’m one of the transfers. Four transfers and four freshmen came in. So, it’s kind of hard to just pick up where you left off in that sense.“

Edwards continued, “We could have easily thrown in the towel. We could have easily given up on the season, but we never bickered, and we never pointed fingers. We just stayed together, kept our heads down, and kept working day in and day out. We haven’t won games the way we think we should have. But we’ve come close… We still hold our own against other teams in this league. It gives us confidence knowing we can play with anybody, even in those circumstances.”

Overall Rambler fans acknowledge that it was a tough season, however, there is hope for this young team. The Ramblers showed great promise with numerous close games and fans were confident when expressing that a great future for the Ramblers is on the horizon. 

It is safe to say the people of Loyola are beyond proud to be Rambler fans. Here’s hoping for great seasons to come.  Go Ramblers!

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