NCAA Tournament: Loyola Ramblers to take on Oregon State in Sweet 16 after upset win over Illinois

Game scheduled for 1:40 p.m. Saturday

Monday, March 22, 2021
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After Sunday's upset of Midwest regional No. 1 Illinois, Rambler fandom has captured imaginations.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The college basketball world is buzzing over Loyola's upset win over number one seed Illinois in the NCAA's men's basketball tournament.

The 8th seed Loyola took the lead early and their defense swarmed the Illini the entire game. The Ramblers won it 71 to 58 over a first seed Illini team which many thought would go all the way.

Sister Jean, the 101-year-old team chaplain and not so secret weapon, provided extra motivation for players and fans.

On the court, the Ramblers were led by senior center Cameron Krutwig from northwest suburban Jacobs High School.

"He's unbelievable man, and what they've been able to do, don't put anything past them," said Jimmy Roberts, Jacobs High School basketball coach.

Senior guard Lucas Williamson knows he's representing a school of over 17,000 students and standing on the shoulders of the 1963 national champions that broke racial barriers, so dreams of winning the championship aren't unrealistic.

"We know we're a good team, and you know, every team that we play we go up against with the expectation to win," Williams said. "I wouldn't say I'd surprised at all, I'd just probably say I'm blessed to be at this stage of the tournament."

Loyola now moves on the Sweet 16 where they will face Oregon State at 1:40 p.m. this coming Saturday.

Of course Loyola fans are thrilled the team continues "The Big Dance"!

"We're just so excited for this team, the coaching staff, the players. They put all the work in," said Carlton Valentine, Loyola parent.

"I think nobody thought this would happen, so it feels great to show them that we do have what it takes," Loyola student Claudia Pyka said.

"The campus is super vibrant right now, everyone's watching the games and it's a really good time," said Lucas Kihmm.

Few people expected the Ramblers to beat the number one seed, but maybe they should have looked to history for clues. The last time these two teams met in the tournament was 1963. Loyola won that game and went on to win their one and only college basketball championship.

"This team came in here and played like champs. Basically, they can beat anybody," said Jerry Harkness, Loyola basketball star and 1963 tournament champion.

Harkness was Loyola's leading scorer in 1963 and likes what he sees in this year's team.

While Loyola fans look forward to the next game in the Sweet 16, Illinois fans were disappointed after hoping to see their team in the Final Four.

"It's going to be a long ride back to Champaign, a real long ride," said Anthony Allen, Illinois fan.

"That's why they call it March Madness, teams can lose it, anybody can lose," said Elliot Siekman, Illinois fan.

So was this one of the biggest games in the state's history? The fans certainly think so, even Illini fans, who confessed they feared this could happen, the matchup coming so early in the tournament.

RELATED: Sister Jean, 101, cheers on her beloved Loyola Ramblers at 'The Big Dance' in Indianapolis

"It's so exciting to be an alumnus," added Ramblers fan Lauren Goodell. "We saw this the first time when they went to the Final Four and just to have this energy again is so amazing."

"I think everyone around would have liked to have this happen a little later but, you know. It stinks that someone is going home today," said Illini fan Nicholas Serpico.

So will history repeat itself? Who knows, but with some luck and Sister Jean on their side anything is possible. For now, even as fans who made the trip to Indianapolis come home, the team remains in the bubble, getting ready for the Sweet Sixteen.