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Rambling to the Sweet 16: Loyola’s run contributes to another NCAA Tourney gone mad

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Loyola-Chicago Ramblers players celebrate winning the NCAA Div I Men's Championship Second Round basketball game between Loyola-Chicago and Tennessee on March 17, 2018 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DALLAS  – Five years ago, the NCAA picked a theme song for their coverage of the Division I Men’s Basketball tournament.

It was fitting for the theme of the nearly month-long basketball showcase, emblematic of the chaos that often takes place over the course of play.

Muse’s “Madness” song was used for the 2013 NCAA Tournament – which was won, then eventually vacated, by Louisville. They completed an entertaining tournament by knocking off Michigan in Atlanta, completing an inspired run in honor of guard Kevin Ware, who gruesomely broke his leg in the Midwest Region Final against Duke in Indianapolis.

While this song could be played at any point in the tournament from the start to the finish, and once again it’s fitting for 2018.

“Madness” is probably the best way to describe another tournament gone mad – and right now a team from Rogers Park is contributing to it as much as anyone.

Not only has Loyola won two games in the tournament as a No. 11 seed, which were their first “Big Dance” victory in 33 years, but they’ve done it in heart-stopping fashion.

If Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beater against sixth-seeded Miami wasn’t enough for you, Saturday brought more excitement. The Jesuit school got a true “Holy Bounce” when Clayton Custer’s shot knocked off the front of the rim, off the backboard, and in. The improbable bounce gave the Ramblers a 63-62 win and their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1985.

“I mean, the only thing I can say is glory to God for that one. I mean, the ball bounced up on the rim, and I got a good bounce like that,” said Custer of the final two points of his ten points on Saturday. “But the only thing I could think about after the game is that that’s all the hard work that I put — like that you put in to get in a situation like this, and all those hours, those waking up early in the morning and working out.

“For all that hard work to come up to that lucky bounce is worth it, and I think all the hard work, the basketball gods helped that one go in, and I’m just super blessed to be in this situation right now.”

One that has Loyola in the final 16 of a tournament that’s been maddening in itself. In the same South Region, a 16th-seed has won for the first time in Division I Men’s history and a four-seed was knocked out in the first round. Then on Sunday, second-seeded Cincinnati was knocked out by seventh-seeded Nevada, erasing a 22-point second-half deficit to win 75-73 in Nashville.

So 11th-seeded Loyola faces seventh-seeded Nevada for the right to go to the Elite Eight on Thursday. Enough madness for you? We’ll it’s not just this region that’s had their share of crazy.

Second-seeded North Carolina bowed out to Texas A&M on Sunday in the West Region while third-seeded Michigan State was dispatched by 11th seeded Syracuse. The Orange have now won three games since Wednesday after barely sneaking into the tournament.

Porter Moser has taken on the difficult task of managing the madness of attention surrounding his team after the win over Miami. His

They had put it behind you, and it’s a credit to everyone in the locker room. They enjoyed it, and then they moved on. And we’re going to enjoy this.” said Moser. “I guarantee you we’re enjoying this. I hope the people in Chicago — I can’t imagine St. Patty’s Day in Chicago because Chicago has embraced this team so much, and to embrace this in Chicago on St. Patty’s Day, wow, my younger self would have loved to have been there.”

Soaking in the madness which they’ve had a hand in during a memorable weekend in Dallas.