In what could be viewed as a boost for all the underdogs in life, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers have qualified to play in the NCAA Final Four.
The 11th-seeded Ramblers claimed their ticket to San Antonio with a 78-62 victory over Kansas State Saturday in Atlanta for the South Regional championship.
It is Loyola’s first trip to the Final Four since the Ramblers won the 1963 NCAA championship.
Winners of 14 in a row and 21 of their last 22, the Missouri Valley Conference champions tied with three other programs in the modern history of the tournament as the lowest seed to reach the national semifinals.
In addition, a basketball coincidence has emerged with Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser coming to the Alamodome.
The late Rick Majerus brought his Utah Utes to the Final Four in 1998 in San Antonio’s first year to host the event.
Rising through the coaching ranks, Moser always considered Majerus as one of his mentors.
He worked on Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis for four years before taking the job at Loyola-Chicago in 2011.
Majerus, battling heart trouble, died in 2012. He was 64.
“It’s hard to quantify all the things I got from him,” Moser, the MVC Coach of the Year, told the Chicago Tribune recently. “I made the most of four years with him as a friend and a coach.”
Lowest seeds to the Final Four
No team seeded lower than No. 11 has ever made it to the NCAA Final Four since 1985, according to The Sporting News.
The following are the lowest seeds to make it:
No. 11 — LSU (in 1986), George Mason (2006) and Virginia Commonwealth (2011)
UTSA sophomore guard Giovanni De Nicolao drives against Sam Houston State in the CIT quarterfinals. Photo by Joe Alexander.
An emotional UTSA coach Steve Henson addressed reporters Thursday night, explaining the difficulty of delivering a proper message to his players following their last game of the season.
“That’s always a tough conversation,” Henson said. “You know, you’re never totally prepared for it. Going into tonight’s game, (you’re) expecting to win and hoping to win and play next week, so, it was tough. A very tough locker room.”
Trailing by 12 early in the second half, Sam Houston State rallied to eliminate UTSA on its home court with a 76-69 victory in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
An announced crowd of 1,352 watched as the visitors from the Southland Conference hit the home team with a late 17-2 run over a five-minute span to take charge.
With the surge, Sam Houston turned a 57-50 deficit into a 67-59 lead with five minutes remaining.
The Roadrunners (20-15) of Conference USA never got closer than five the rest of the way.
Ultimately, the Bearkats (21-14) won the game at the free-throw line. They hit 27 of 34 to only 7 of 13 for the Roadrunners.
UTSA players took the loss hard.
“I want to keep this feeling, right here, for all summer, how I hurt right now, to work out all summer, to get better and to win the conference (next year),” UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao said.
Sam Houston State’s Josh Delaney (15) drives hard to the bucket and dishes to teammate Freddy Bitondo (0) for a layup mid-way through the second half.
Sam Houston State: John Dewey III, 18 points, including 13 in the second half. He hit 8 of 10 free throws. Cameron Delaney, 13 points, 6 rebounds. Chris Galbreath, 11 points, 12 rebounds. Josh Delaney, 11 points, 5 assists.
UTSA: Keaton Wallace, 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting, 3 of 7 from three-point distance. Giovanni De Nicolao, 17 points on 7 of 13, including 3 of 5 from three. Nick Allen, 11 points, 4 of 12. Byron Frohnen, 8 points, 4 rebounds. Deon Lyle, 5 points on 2 of 9, 1 of 7 from three.
UTSA forward Byron Frohnen runs the floor and gets the ball for an easy shot late in the first half against Sam Houston State.
The UTSA Roadrunners hit eight three-pointers in the first half, breaking out to a 37-28 intermission lead.
Wallace led the long-distance barrage, nailing three shots from beyond the arc.
De Nicolao and Allen added two more apiece as the Roadrunners nailed 8 of 16 overall.
Defensively, UTSA played well, holding Sam Houston to 10 of 30 from the field and 4 of 6 free throws.
UTSA guard Giovanni De Nicolao hits a three from the corner early in the first half against Sam Houston State.
UTSA players wanted a CIT championship, but they did bring home a 20-win season — only the seventh in the program’s 37 years.
The Roadrunners played its sixth straight game without leading scorer Jhivvan Jackson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 24 against Louisiana Tech. UTSA went 3-3 in his absence, including 1-1 in the C-USA tournament and 1-1 in the CIT.
Cameron Delaney, a junior guard from Harker Heights, sparked Sam Houston’s decisive 17-2 run with three-pointer, a steal and another basket.
The Bearkats played without guard Marcus Harris, who injured his foot Monday night in a 69-62 home victory over Eastern Michigan. Harris played in high school in San Antonio for the MacArthur Brahmas. He is averaging 9.7 points per game.
Central Michigan at Liberty
Sam Houston State beat UTSA, 76-69
UTSA lost to Sam Houston State on Thursday, March 22, 2018, at the UTSA Convocation Center in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals. UTSA guard forward Nick Allen, who scored 11 points, shoots over the Sam Houston State defense. Photo by Joe Alexander.
Former Purdue University guard Carson Cunningham says he is “super excited” to get the job as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the University of the Incarnate Word mission,” said Cunningham, who has coached the past five seasons at NAIA Carroll College in Helena, Montana.
UIW is an NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference.
Cunningham said in a telephone interview that he applied for the job soon after it came open in the first week of March.
He said he had preliminary talks with members of the UIW search committee, headed by athletic director Brian Wickstrom.
Subsequently, he was invited to the campus.
“Really, it all happened pretty fast,” Cunningham said. “I’m just really grateful for the opportunity, excited to get to work.”
Cunningham played for Gene Keady at Purdue for three seasons through 2001.
It’s the first Division I head coaching job for Cunningham, 40, from Ogden Dunes, Indiana.
In the past three years, his teams at Carroll dominated with a combined 80-22 record and back-to-back Frontier Conference titles.
Cunningham took over a program in 2013 that finished with only two victories the previous season.
He won nine games in his first year and then followed with records of 18-11, 23-10, 29-6 and 28-6.
The Saints reached the NAIA tournament in each of the past three years.
Cunningham will replace Ken Burmeister at UIW, which is still a program in transition.
In 2013-14, UIW embarked on a move from Division II and the Lone Star Conference to Division I and the Southland.
The Cardinals posted three straight winning records to start the transition but have since fallen on hard times.
Two years ago, UIW fell to 12-17. This past season, with the program eligible to compete for both the Southland and NCAA tournaments for the first time, the Cardinals dropped to 7-21.
At one point, they lost 17 games in a row. Ultimately, UIW fell short of the eight-team, SLC tournament, finishing tied for 11th at 2-16.
From new UIW head coach Carson Cunningham:
“It’s thrilling to join the University of the Incarnate Word — a school with a wonderful mission and super-dynamic academics — as its next head men’s basketball coach,” Cunningham said. “I’d like to thank AD Dr. Brian Wickstrom and the hiring committee for the opportunity to join such an impressive athletic program; one that is positioning itself for a bright future.”
From former Purdue coach Gene Keady:
“I’m very happy for Carson. He was fun to be around and very intelligent as a player. I’ve visited him at Carroll in Montana twice and really liked his program. I’m excited to follow UIW now, and I’m happy for him and his family.”
UTSA’s Steve Henson has been honored as both the NABC District 11 and C-USA coach of the year.
Steve Henson has won his second major coaching honor of the season.
He was named on Wednesday as the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 11 coach of the year.
In his second year at UTSA, Henson previously had been cited as the Coach of the Year in Conference USA.
Henson won the award on the eve of a CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament quarterfinal between UTSA (20-14) and Sam Houston State (20-14).
UTSA hosts Sam Houston Thursday night at 7.
The Roadrunners finished 5-27 in 2015-16, the year before Henson arrived.
They improved to win 14 games last year and 20 this year on the heels of back-to-back strong recruiting classes.
Two years ago, Henson brought in a freshman class that included Giovanni De Nicolao, Byron Frohnen and George Willborn III.
Last year, his staff added freshmen Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace and transfer Deon Lyle.
Jackson, the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and a second-team, all C-USA selection, averaged 18.4 points per game.
UTSA suffered a blow to its postseason chances when it lost Jackson to a knee injury against Louisiana Tech.
But even without Jackson, the Roadrunners split the next two games on the road to finish the regular season 18-13 overall and 11-7, good for fifth place in the C-USA.
UTSA defeated UTEP to reach the quarterfinals in the C-USA tournament before losing to Marshall, the eventual champion.
In the CIT, UTSA hosted Lamar last Wednesday, recovered from a slow start and won 76-69.
Sam Houston at a glance
Sam Houston State finished the regular season 19-13 overall and fourth in the SLC standings with a 12-6 record.
Moving into the SLC tournament at Katy, the Bearkats routed New Orleans 85-63 before losing in the second round to Southeastern Louisiana, 89-79.
Sam Houston won at home in its first game in the CIT, beating Eastern Michigan 69-62 on Monday, to qualify for the quarterfinal game against UTSA.
The Bearkats have won 20 games or more in four of the past five seasons under coach Jason Hooten. Hooten is in his eighth year at the school.
Sam Houston — Chris Galbreath, Jr. leads Sam Houston, averaging 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. John Dewey III averages 10 points and 4.5 assists. Transfer Marcus Harris, who played in high school at MacArthur, is averaging 9.4 points in his first season with the Bearkats.
UTSA — Junior transfer Deon Lyle has stepped up to average 17 points in the five games since Jackson has been out. He has led UTSA in scoring four times during the stretch.
For the season, Lyle is averaging 11.5, Wallace 11.2, Nick Allen 8.8 and De Nicolao 8.4. Willborn, a 4.5 ppg scorer last year, has boosted his average to 7.8 as a sophomore. Byron Frohnen averages 7.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Trailing by 12 points in the second half, the Florida State Seminoles rallied to stun the top-seeded Xavier Musketeers 75-70 on Sunday night in second-round play at Nashville in the NCAA Tournament’s West Region.
The Musketeers, holding a two-point lead at halftime, built it to 58-46 over the No. 9 Seminoles with 9:50 remaining.
With 5:37 left, they were still up by nine at 66-57 when the tide started to turn in Florida State’s favor.
From there, the Seminoles outscored the Musketeers 18-4 the rest of the way, earning a ticket to play in Los Angeles in the Sweet 16.
PJ Savoy hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 68 seconds left to give Florida State its first lead in the second half.
With the loss, Xavier became the second No. 1 seed to fall in the first week of the tournament.
The Musketeers followed the Virginia Cavaliers, who made history Friday night as the first No. 1 to lose in the Round of 64.
UMBC recorded a 74-54 victory over Virginia in the South Region that seemed to set the stage for a rash of upsets over the next few days.
By Sunday night, Florida State got into the act with a stirring finish against Xavier.
With the victory, the Seminoles will meet the No. 4 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs in one of two semifinals Thursday at the Staples Center in L.A.
In the other, it will be the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines against the No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies.
The winner of the regional finals on Saturday will earn a trip to the Final Four at the Alamodome from March 31-April 2.