Rambling to the Tourney: Loyola’s got competition for the 2018 ‘Cinderella’ label

College Basketball: NCAA Playoffs: Loyola Chicago players victorious on court after winning game vs Miami at American Airlines Center. Dallas, TX 3/15/2018 CREDIT: Greg Nelson (Photo by Greg Nelson /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X161798 TK2 )

DALLAS  – Once a team captures a victory during the NCAA Tournament while having a double-digit seed number, there is a certain label which they immediately get attached.

Here’s a hint – think Disney.

“You don’t try to think about that,” said Loyola head coach Porter Moser when asked if his team could be one of the stories of this year’s tournament. “You don’t. I mean, it’s fun to joke with it.”

The term is better known as “Cinderella,” and the “slipper” comparison is used ad nauseam from year-to-year. But it’s fitting, it’s fun, and always someone is given the label as they make a surprise run through the tournament.

Eleventh-seeded Loyola very well could have that label after they knocked off sixth-seeded Miami on a last-second three pointer by Donte Ingram. The win was the highlight of Thursday’s play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, making the Ramblers a popular pick for casual fans to get behind as the tournament dwindles down to 32 teams.

Beyond having a bit of fun with the notion in a news conference or two, owning the “Cinderella” label isn’t really a priority as they prepare for their second-round South Region contest against third-seeded Tennessee.

“But last night, we sat down, we got in the film room and we were watching some film, just so that we could kind of stop thinking about the past and kind of move forward towards Tennessee,” said Clayton Custer. “And then now that we woke up today, I mean, I think we’re kind of done celebrating yesterday. We’ve moved on, and now we’re ready to go to try to beat Tennessee tomorrow.”

As they do, the Ramblers won’t be the only upstart team competing for the chance to continue their improbably run in the tournament. In fact, they’re victories were even more surprising nationally than Loyola’s triumph over the Hurricanes, and both came in the same region.

On Thursday,  13th-seeded Buffalo crushed trendy Final Four pick Arizona 89-68 late game in Dallas. Then on Friday came perhaps the greatest upset in tournament history, courtesy of UMBC. For the first time in NCAA Men’s Tournament history, the 16th-seeded Retrievers stunned No. 1 overall seed Arizona by 20 points, putting them at the top of mind of all college basketball fans heading into the second round.

Four of the eight games in the region went to the lower seed, with the No. 1 team already gone, opening up the possibility of a surprise winner once things are settled at the South Final in Atlanta next weekend.

First things first, of course, and that’s the third-seeded Volunteers who dominated Wright State 73-47 before the Ramblers’ pulled off their dramatic win over Miami. Moser has his mind on the group that held the Raiders to 31 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle by 14.

Media at his news conference, naturally, wanted to talk about Loyola’s potential “Cinderella” role in this tournament. Porter wasn’t really biting on the hype.

Sure. Why not? Why not believe in it? We’ve all watched the tournament. Crazy stuff happens, March Madness,” said Moser when asked if he believes in destiny. “But it just doesn’t happen by daydreaming about it. You’re not going to compete against Tennessee just daydreaming about it. I mean, you’re going to have to play physical. You’re going to have to box out every possession. You’re going to have to guard the post because they have some of the best duck-in players in the country.

“We’ve got our hands full on things we’ve got to prepare for yourself.I think people that just think and daydream about destiny and all this, it becomes fantasizing. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to get ready into this game plan and then produce and do in this game to compete with Tennessee.”

Along with the other teams that are vying to be the darlings of this dance.