RAMBLING TO THE SWEET 16: After this unusual season, Moser enjoys the moment

Big Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 21: Head coach Porter Moser of the Loyola Chicago Ramblers celebrates with players after a win against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS – If you want an idea of just how different this basketball season has been for everyone involved in Division 1 men’s basketball, all you have to do is look at “March Madness.”

Everything has been in one city – Indianapolis – and the amount of fans is severely reduced from years of the past where thousands would travel for the NCAA Tournament.

COVID-19 has made this a reality for every single team that took the court starting in October and continues for the lucky few still alive in the tournament. It’s certainly taken away something from the experience, especially for those teams that are experiencing success.

That includes Loyola, who knocked off top-seeded Illinois last Sunday to make their second Sweet 16 in four seasons. There would be no welcome back celebration like there was in 2018, only a return to quarantine in Indianapolis to wait for a Midwest Region semifinal game against Oregon State on Saturday.

“No question you’d rather have that. We beat Tennessee and came back to a huge parade in the street,” said Ramblers head coach Porter Moser of the 2018 run by Loyola. “The police escorts in Chicago were great.”

But is that any reason not to embrace the experience in 2021? Absolutely not, according to Moser.

Don’t forget that this run is the greatest of the coach’s career and is one of the best in school history. It’s one that’s been enjoyed by a few lucky players who were around three years ago – including key contributors Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Willamson – even if the circumstances are quite a bit different.

Enjoying and embracing the experiences is as much a part of Moser’s discussion with his team as much as strategy as the look forward to their next challenge at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.

“You can’t complain, and this is why: You’ve got to look at it and be grateful we’re having it,” said Moser. “Look at the teams last year that were on their way, got the tournament bids, and couldn’t be here. So you’ve got to look at it half-full. So, yes, we have to stay here, but man, we’re enjoying the moment, we’re enjoying each other. We’re enjoying the competition, the ability to advance.

“It’s such a key lesson and mindset that you learn this year is focus on what’s good, focus on what’s is the positives. Yes, we’d rather go back home and spend with our family. But we’re here, we’re here, we’re advancing, we’re in the Sweet 16, we’re with a group of guys we love, and to me, those things you have to be grateful for and have your mind filled with those kind of thoughts.”

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