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Ramblers Tabbed as Preseason Conference Favorite

CHICAGO (October 18, 2018) – After putting together one of the most memorable seasons in Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball history, which culminated with the program’s first trip to the NCAA Final Four in 55 years, the Ramblers have been picked to repeat as champions of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season race, according to the preseason poll, which was released today by the league office. Voting was conducted by Valley head coaches, sports information directors and selected media.

This marks the first time since joining The Valley for the 2013-14 that Loyola has been picked to win the league title. A year ago, the Ramblers were pegged to finish third before rolling to a 15-3 ledger in conference play en route to their first league crown since 1987 when they were a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

Eighth-year head coach Porter Moser, who has transformed the Loyola program into a squad that can compete with anyone in the country, posting four wins versus nationally ranked teams while garnering a No. 7 ranking in last season’s USA Today Coaches Poll, welcomes back three starters from last year’s club that set a school record with 32 wins and gave the Ramblers their first NCAA tournament berth since 1985.

Loyola garnered 29 of a possible 43 first-place votes to finish atop the 2018-19 MVC Preseason Poll with 410 points, ahead of Illinois State (374 points) and Southern Illinois (362 points). Rounding out the predicted order of finish was Bradley (305), UNI (248), Indiana State (210), Valparaiso (173), Missouri State (125), Drake (92) and Evansville (66).

One of the returning starters Moser will lean on heavily in 2018-19 is redshirt senior point guard Clayton Custer (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley Northwest/Iowa State), last year’s Larry Bird Trophy winner as the MVC Player of the Year. The 6-foot-1 Custer was tabbed as the 2018-19 MVC Preseason Player of the Year and will try to become just the ninth player in Valley history, and the first since Doug McDermott of Creighton (2012, 2013), to win back-to-back Player of the Year awards. Custer, whose game-winning jumper with 3.6 seconds remaining propelled Loyola to a 63-62 victory over Tennessee in the NCAA Second Round, put up 13.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season, hitting 52.8 percent of his field goal attempts and 45.1 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.

In addition to MVC Player of the Year status a year ago, Custer pulled in a truckload of accolades, including Associated PressHonorable Mention All-America, National Association of Basketball Coaches First Team All-District 16, National Jesuit Player of the Year, CollegeInsider.com’s Lou Henson Award as the Mid-Major Player of the Year and NCAA South Regional All-Tournament Team, while also earning a handful of awards for his work in the classroom.

Joining Custer on the MVC Preseason First Team was Jordan Barnes (Indiana State), Phil Fayne (Illinois State), Armon Fletcher (Southern Illinois) and Milik Yarbrough (Illinois State).

Custer’s backcourt mate, fellow redshirt senior Marques Townes (Edison, N.J./St. Joseph/Fairleigh Dickinson), who helps give Loyola one of the top backcourts in the country, was named Preseason All-MVC Second Team. In his first year of action for the Ramblers last winter, the 6-foot-4 guard flew under the radar and quietly accounted for 11.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 2.4 apg, while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three-point territory. Townes hit one of the biggest shots in Loyola’s NCAA tournament run last March, knocking down a clutch three-pointer in the closing seconds to seal the outcome in a 69-68 victory over Nevada in the Sweet Sixteen.

Townes was joined on the MVC Preseason Second Team by another Rambler, sophomore Cameron Krutwig (Algonquin, Ill./Jacobs). One of the most skilled post players in the nation, the 6-foot-9 center took home MVC Freshman of the Year recognition in 2017-18 after contributing 10.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 1.7 apg, while converting 59.8 percent of his field goal tries. Krutwig was at his best against quality competition, registering 14 points and eight rebounds in a win at No. 5 Florida and 17 points versus No. 7 Michigan in the Final Four.

Rounding out the MVC Preseason Second Team was Darrell Brown (Bradley), Keyshawn Evans (Illinois State) and Kavion Pippen (Southern Illinois).

Loyola hosts Winona State in an exhibition game October 23 before officially opening the 2018-19 regular season November 6 when UMKC visits Gentile Arena.

2018-19 MVC Preseason Poll

1. Loyola (29 first-place votes) – 410 points

2. Illinois State (10)– 374

3. Southern Illinois(4)– 362

4. Bradley – 305

5. UNI – 248

6. Indiana State – 210

7. Valparaiso – 173

8. Missouri State – 125

9. Drake – 92

10. Evansville – 66

2018-19 MVC Preseason First Team

Jordan Barnes, Indiana State

Clayton Custer, Loyola

Phil Fayne, Illinois State

Armon Fletcher, Southern Illinois

Milik Yarbrough, Illinois State

2018-19 MVC Preseason Second Team

Darrell Brown, Bradley

Keyshawn Evans, Illinois State

Cameron Krutwig, Loyola

Kavion Pippen, Southern Illinois

Marques Townes, Loyola

2018-19 MVC Preseason Player of the Year

Clayton Custer, Loyola

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