Lack of re­spect shows in Ram­blers get­ting no votes for Top 25 poll

Chicago Sun-Times - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - Email: sgreen­berg@ sun­times. com STEVE GREEN­BERG

It’s hard to blame Loy­ola coach Porter Moser for tak­ing a pass this week on dis­cussing the Ram­blers’ NCAA Tour­na­ment hopes. It’s to­tally un­der­stand­able that he would tell the Sun- Times thanks, but no thanks on the sub­ject of their ut­ter omis­sion from the As­so­ci­ated Press’ Top 25 poll, too. What’s the guy sup­posed to do, grovel? If there’s a gen­eral lack of re­gard out there for Loy­ola — 22- 5 over­all and 12- 3 in the Mis­souri Val­ley after its victory Wed­nes­day against Val­paraiso at Gen­tile Arena — Moser isn’t of a mind to fight it, at least not with words. He has a re­ally good team, seemingly the school’s best in more than three decades, to keep coach­ing up. It’s prob­a­bly a given at this point that a Val­ley post­sea­son ti­tle a lit­tle more than two weeks from now in St. Louis is the Ram­blers’ only path to the NCAAs.

‘‘ The big prob­lem for them is a non­con­fer­ence [ strength- of­sched­ule ranking] of 280,’’ CBS bracket ex­pert Jerry Palm said. ‘‘ It’s hard to see a case for Loy­ola with­out win­ning the league.’’

In two of the last three Marches, the Val­ley put a post­sea­son champ and a sec­ond, at- large team into the Big Dance — but both times the at- large team was Wi­chita State, which now is a first- year mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence. Illi­nois State was snubbed on Se­lec­tion Sun­day last sea­son de­spite hav­ing won 27 games and reach­ing the Val­ley fi­nal, where it lost to the pow­er­house Shock­ers.

Loy­ola’s last NCAA ap­pear­ance was in 1985. The only post­sea­son na­tional tour­na­ment the Ram­blers have seen since then was the 2015 CBI, which they won. Ad­mit­tedly, there isn’t much hoops ca­chet at a school that has had only eight above-. 500 teams in the 33 years since Al­fredrick Hughes, Carl ‘‘ Go- Go’’ Gol­ston and Co. were rac­ing to the Sweet 16.

So let’s set aside the NCAAs ( for this week, any­way). How is it that the Ram­blers are get­ting no Top 25 love? And we mean no love at all. Sixty- five vot­ers cast bal­lots in the poll this week. Zero of them had Moser’s team any­where to be found.

It’s al­most as if the Ram­blers’ 65- 59 victory at Florida in De­cem­ber never hap­pened. Did we men­tion the Ga­tors were a No. 4 seed in ESPN ex­pert Joe Lu­nardi’s pro­jected bracket this week?

‘‘ I looked closely at Loy­ola after the Ram­blers beat Florida, and I’ve kept an eye on them all sea­son,’’ Lans­ing State Jour­nal colum­nist Gra­ham Couch, a Top 25 voter, said in a direct-mes­sage ex­change. ‘‘ Short of a 16- 2- ish record in the Val­ley, it’s hard to jus­tify them in the Top 25. . . . [ But] I wouldn’t want to play them in a 5- 12 or 4- 13 matchup in the first round.’’

Scott Richey, who cov­ers Illi­nois for the News- Gazette in Cham­paign, is tak­ing Loy­ola’s suc­cess with a grain — no, a spoon­ful — of salt.

‘‘ Other than the win against Florida and the fact Loy­ola is a team in the state of Illi­nois that I’ll see on TV oc­ca­sion­ally, the Ram­blers have not been on my radar as an AP voter,’’ he said. ‘‘ I like to re­ward win­ning, but I try to take a big- pic­ture view.’’

Voter B. J. Rains of the Idaho Press- Tri­bune was court­side for the Ram­blers’ worst per­for­mance of the sea­son.

‘‘ They might not be as high on my radar as some be­cause the only game I saw them play live was a 34- point loss to Boise State back in Novem­ber,’’ he said. ‘‘ That has prob­a­bly un­fairly turned me away from them a lit­tle bit.’’

Un­fair? It’s de­bat­able. Un­for­tu­nate? Given the state of col­lege bas­ket­ball around the city and this state, def­i­nitely.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ SLGreen­berg.

Loy­ola coach Porter Moser’s team likely will have to win the MVC tour­na­ment to get a bid to the NCAA tour­ney.

| AP

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