We continue the recruit and return series with Loyola-Chicago, which shocked the college basketball world by making it to the Final Four. A look at what the 2018-19 season could hold for Porter Moser and the Ramblers.
Possible 2018-19 starting five
G: Bruno Skokna
Who is lost: The Ramblers lose three of their top six players from this season, including double-figure scorers Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson. Ingram was a solid four-year player, hitting double figures in each of his last two seasons with the Ramblers. The Chicago native was a good outside shooter who played bigger than his 6-foot-6 size.
Jackson came up big against both Tennessee and Nevada, coming off the bench and providing a boost on the offensive end. He bought in once Cameron Krutwig came into the program, after averaging 14.1 points as a junior. Ben Richardson was terrific against Kansas State, scoring 23 points and dishing out four assists while hitting six 3-pointers. The senior guard was never a big scorer at Loyola-Chicago but was a consistent distributor. Loyola will miss his pass-first mentality.
Who is added: Loyola-Chicago signed three players during the early signing period: Franklin Agunanne, Isaiah Bujdoso and Cooper Kaifes. Agunanne (La Lumiere) and Bujdoso (Sunrise Christian) both come from successful high school programs, while Kaifes played on renowned AAU program MoKan Elite. A 6-foot-9 center, Agunanne is a very good defensive rebounder and will block shots. Bujdoso played alongside R.J. Barrett on the AAU circuit and has very good length. Kaifes brings perimeter shooting. Big man Aher Uguak is also eligible after sitting out following a transfer from New Mexico.
What it means for next season: Moser brings back three starters and will also need some role players to step up. The backcourt of Custer and Townes returns. Both were redshirt juniors this season and will immediately be one of the best backcourts in America next season. Custer has averaged double-figures in each of his two seasons since transferring from Iowa State, shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range and distributing effectively. Townes had big nights against Nevada and Kansas State in the NCAA tournament and provides Loyola with one of its few players capable of creating off the bounce. He also shot nearly 40 percent from 3.
Talking to coaches around the Missouri Valley, and they will say Krutwig is the one who makes everything go. At 6-9 and 260 pounds, he's their biggest player but allows Loyola to invert its offense and create mismatches. He's also efficient around the basket. Williamson and Skokna will see increased roles next season. Williamson played 20-plus minutes in each of the Ramblers' first four NCAA tournament games and can really shoot it from the perimeter. Skokna saw spot minutes down the stretch but has decent size for the backcourt.
Trending: Neutral. So this is sort of a cop-out, but Loyola probably isn't going to make the Final Four again next season, yet it doesn't seem like the program is going to disappear and make this year a total anomaly. The Ramblers are bringing back several key cogs from this season and will have the best backcourt in the Valley, as well as a legitimate go-to big man. Moser is a terrific coach and should have this team back in the NCAA tournament.