Undefeated Wichita State comes to Chicago on Wednesday night, but it's the Loyola Ramblers who are looking to be the ultimate shockers.
A 9-17 record, just 4-10 in the Missouri Valley, doesn't inspire the most confidence for a monumental upset by the Ramblers on Wednesday. The visiting Shockers, after all, are one of two undefeated teams in the country and the No. 3-ranked team in the AP top 25. But none of that seems to matter to Loyola head coach Porter Moser, who knows anything can happen on any given night in college hoops, including an unexpected takedown of one of America's top teams.
"As a kid, as a coach and as a player at this level, you want to play the best. And to get them in our home arena, the third-ranked team in the country, it's a great opportunity," Moser said Tuesday. "We're trying to change culture here, and when you're chasing something, you want to know who you're chasing. And the whole Missouri Valley Conference is chasing Wichita State. That's who you want to be like. Now they've put themselves on a national stage. The whole country's chasing them with them being one of two undefeated teams. So for Loyola Chicago, to have them in our own building, it's a great opportunity."
One thing in the Ramblers' corner could be experience, as they will know what's coming after playing the Shockers in Wichita earlier this season. It was a 57-45 win for the Shockers, but at least, Moser said, the Ramblers won't be surprised. Still, a great opportunity and a upset-minded attitude doesn't change the fact that the Shockers — famous for being underdogs themselves during last season's run to the Final Four — are quite good.
"They're better than advertised. As much publicity as they've been getting, they're better than that," Moser said. "As good and as tough a team as I've scouted against. They've got good players, and they play tough. Going to the Final Four gives them this air of confidence that they do (have). But for us, having played them already at their place, it's not that shock value. We know how good they are, we know we have to play well, and we know we can compete. We've got to play better, and we've got to take care of the ball. They try to turn you over, it's been our Achilles heel. But you need an IV if you're not fired up to play this game. The whole college sports stage will be here in Chicago, and it's a great feeling. It's what I'd want to be (playing) in if I was a player. I'm jealous of the guys, I wanted to play. I'd love to play in a game like this."
Though hypothetical, it would be a big deal if Loyola could topple Wichita State.
"We talked about it last game, one team's going to beat them this season. They're not going to run the table for a national title," Loyola junior Christian Thomas said. "So once that happens it's going to change someone's program forever, so we just want it to be us."
It's quite apparent the Ramblers have embraced the any-given-night mentality. And it's pretty obvious where that comes from.
"It is not an NBA series best of seven. It's one game, one night," Moser said. "We don't have to be better in a best of seven, we have to be better, the best team for a two-hour period in this building in Chicago."