Loyola men’s basketball coach Porter Moser is the new guy in the Missouri Valley Conference, yet he knows what he is getting into when the Ramblers join next Monday.
Moser played at Creighton from 1986-90 and coached Illinois State from 2003-07. He is preparing his team with the knowledge that talent isn’t enough. Teams win in the MVC with consistency and stability.
“There’s some great teams in this league, and coaches know what that means when I say a ‘team,’” Moser said during Monday’s summer conference call with MVC coaches. “All the kids are on the same page, playing together. Fundamental. Every team has a system. That’s why it’s had so much success.”
Loyola’s addition, replacing Creighton, is the biggest change for the MVC entering the 2013-14 school year. While Drake’s Ray Giacoletti is the MVC’s lone new coach (among the nine holdover schools), graduation and transfer combined for major roster changes. Eleven of the 15 players who earned All-MVC honors are gone, including Evansville’s Colt Ryan, Illinois State’s Jackie Carmichael and Drake’s Ben Simons.
Despite the uncertainty, coaches spoke optimistically about the MVC’s future without Creighton. Wichita State’s Final Four berth provided the perfect counterpoint to the loss of a marquee member.
The MVC finished last season No. 8 in the power rankings (RPI). It finished in the top 10 eight of the past nine seasons. Replacing Creighton (No. 22 in the RPI last season) with Loyola (No. 221) makes holding a top-10 spot tougher.
“I’m not excited that Creighton is leaving, but I’m excited about our league,” Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson said. “We had a team that went to the Final Four … and it wasn’t Creighton. Our league is fine.”
MVC coaches are happy to use WSU’s national success as a selling point to recruits. The fact the Shockers went 12-6 and finished second in the MVC (behind Creighton) says something about the conference’s balance.
“It’s good for all of us,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “(Recruits) know that Wichita is in the Missouri Valley and they know how good the league is.”
While the positives of swapping Creighton for Loyola are few, MVC coaches see the possibility of a victory in getting Chicago, with its population, media potential and recruiting possibilities.
“We all recruit Chicago,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “I’m sure it will help Loyola … and it’s not going to hurt the league. Bradley, Illinois State and Loyola try to do well in our backyard and we all consider Chicago a big piece of that.”
Moser will enter the MVC with a young team — no seniors and two juniors — after improving to 15-16 in 2013. Any recruiting payoff will come in the future, after coaches spend time selling players in the classes of 2014 and 2015.
“The area we’re in, the Valley has such a strong name and it’s been a very, very positive reception,” Moser said.
Atlanta advantage — The Shockers immediately cashed in a recruiting boost from the Final Four, coach Gregg Marshall said. WSU picked up an oral commitment in early May from Zachary Brown, a 6-foot-7 forward from South Kent (Conn.) School.
While Marshall can’t mention him by name due to NCAA rules, he did say the exposure in Atlanta helped with an unofficial commitment.
“He was recruited by some other schools that generally we wouldn’t be able to beat in recruiting,” Marshall said. “He pursued us.”
Health update — Missouri State senior forward Jamar Gulley is recovering from knee surgery that cost him last season. He is practicing light contact work and will play 5-on-5 in August, coach Paul Lusk said.
Indiana State center Mike Samuels (6-foot-11, 285 pounds) missed last season with a broken foot. He may return by January after a May surgery.
“Mike is the biggest guy in the league and hasn’t been able to play a minute for us,” Lansing said.
Wonderful to watch — Former Kansas player Milton Doyle will be a freshman at Loyola. In 2012, he traveled with the Jayhawks to France, but transferred soon after and did not play an NCAA game for the Jayhawks.
Doyle tried to get eligible immediately last season for the Ramblers. The NCAA denied his waiver and Moser is happy.
“That was one of the best things that ever happened for him,” Moser said. “He got to sit back, take a look at things and how things work. He was able to be full-time with our strength coach. He matured a lot.”
Doyle, a 6-foot-4 guard, is from Chicago’s Marshall High.
“He’s tremendously talented,” Moser said. “He’s got a high ceiling. He’s got a tremendous feel for the game.”