Two national champions from long ago head to the California coast for one last nonconference tune-up when Loyola of Chicago and Stanford duel in a men’s college basketball game Thursday night in Santa Cruz.
Loyola (6-5) won the NCAA championship in 1963 and has been back to the NCAA Tournament just seven times since, including each of the last two seasons.
Stanford (4-7) has reached the Big Dance 16 times in those 59 years, but not since 2014 and not for 47 years after claiming the 1942 NCAA title.
Neither team has shown to be worthy of the NCAA Tournament so far this season, but there’s still time. The Ramblers make their Atlantic-10 Conference debut next Saturday at home against George Washington, while the Cardinal will be looking to rebound from an 0-2 Pacific-12 Conference start when they host Colorado next Thursday.
Loyola enters the neutral-site affair in the better form of the two, having won three in a row, each by a double-figure margin. The run includes a 76-58 win over Clemson on a neutral court in Atlanta earlier this month.
Philip Alston had a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double in a 68-56 home win over Albany in Loyola’s most recent outing last Sunday.
Before heading west, Ramblers coach Drew Valentine made it clear to his team: This was no vacation.
“You get to experience the West Coast. Feel fortunate and blessed that you get to do that,” he said. “And at the same time, go out there with a purpose.”
The Cardinal’s purpose in taking the hour-long bus ride is to build upon an impressive stretch late in a competitive 72-62 loss to Texas in Dallas last Sunday and stall a skid that’s seen them lose four of five.
Stanford coach Jerod Haase was generally pleased with the effort against the Longhorns, which included a 13-1, second-half burst that gave the nationally ranked Texas team a scare.
“I was proud of our guys to fight back in the second half,” he said. “I thought our game plan was sound. I thought our players understood it.”
Michael Jones led Stanford in the loss with 17 points.
–Field Level Media