CHICAGO – A four-letter word is the one that most college basketball players want to hear in the month of March.
It’s three-letter ones are actually a little derogatory.
Like NIT. Or CIT. Or CBI.
Some teams decide not to play in them. At Colorado-who accepted their bid to the CBI-their leading scorer Askia Booker decided to skip the tournament all together. He’s a senior and he turned down the chance to continue his career for one more day in favor of training for a potential pro basketball career.
Would Porter Moser have to face a similar situation at Loyola?
Nope. His proof was in the handwriting.
“We got them together the very first day we prepared for it. I sat them down, we put the balls up and I spread them around the gym and I made them write on a piece of paper and I said ‘What do you visualize for this tournament? What is your vision for this tournament’,” said Moser. “They all kinda sat there and thought about it and they said they wanted to win it.”
Each of them, including junior guard Jeff White, put that on paper during this unusual pre-practice activity.
“We usually talk about it, but this time he did it differently,” said White. “He had three sheets of paper and he had us just write down on it.”
Putting it in ink sometimes makes teams or players more accountable and that's certainly been the case for Loyola who is enjoying a postseason men's basketball run for the first time in 30 years. No it's not with the hoopla which Alfredrick Hughes and the 1985 Ramblers had in their run to the Sweet 16 but Loyola has won postseason games since that run in their first appearance in the CBI.
A three-point win over Rider and an 8-point triumph against Oral Roberts on Monday have put Moser's team into the CBI Semifinals where they will face Seattle on Wednesday. A win there and the Ramblers will face either Vermont or Louisiana-Monroe in a best-of-three championship series.
"It's all about creating a vision and these guys visualize winning this," said Moser. "Some teams go into this and they don't want to be there. We're fired up. We're in March. There's gonna be four teams that are going to end this year without a loss and we went into this thing saying we want to be one of those four teams."
Doing so gives some good vibes to the current Ramblers team for sure. They've already won the most games (21) since that 1985 team and have victories in five of their last six games. But the added experience of three or potentially six games during March and early April could benefit a team that features six freshman and a sophomore.
After all, this CBI tournament is the first for the program of any kind in 30 years.
"It helps out a lot. It gives us a little taste of winning in a postseason environment, just the great feeling of knowing how far we could get," said White. "It's just a great experience moving forward."
Now in his fourth season at Loyola, Moser echoes those sentiments as he tries to build up the program that joined the more competitive Missouri Valley Conference this season. As with other sports there is no guarantee that success now will aid the team in November but it can't hurt.
"I don't know if I can tell you how much it's going to carry over but I am going to tell you how much I'm going to emphasize it. All offseason we're going to be talking about it," said Moser. "All offseason we're going to be playing off the fact of experience. Playing on the fact of how did it feel to be playing in postseason with your fans.
"Imagine and visualize. Work this offseason towards it."
If his players memories get a little fuzzy, Moser always has it in writing.