The state of Illinois has a rich basketball history. The original March Madness, the IHSA basketball tournament, was created in the Land of Lincoln. Some of the game’s greatest players played high school basketball in the state, including Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, Anthony Davis, Isiah Thomas and Derrick Rose. The most influential basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan, led the state’s professional team to six NBA championships in eight years. 

Yet, the state of Illinois’ 13 Division-I basketball programs haven’t won an NCAA Tournament championship since 1963 (Loyola), though Illinois (five), DePaul (two), Bradley (two) and Loyola (two) have all advanced to multiple Final Fours. But the state recently has struggled, going through a three-year drought without a team in the NCAA Tournament (2014-16).

But the state has performed better as of late. The flagship school is back among the Big Ten’s best. A longtime Big Ten cellar-dweller is just a few years removed from its best season ever. And with Wichita State and Creighton out of the Missouri Valley Conference, most of the state’s four in-state MVC programs have taken advantage and risen up the standings in the conference, and a pair have earned the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid during the last three seasons…

Porter Moser actually is the longest-tenured in-state Division-I basketball coach, and he has spurned some high-major programs to stay in Chicago and build Loyola Chicago into one of the better mid-major programs in the country. Moser, a Naperville native, seems to have used his experience as the head man at Illinois State to his advantage during his second stint in the Missouri Valley. He has built his program up by landing some of the state’s next-tier of talent that high-major programs have passed on, including former star Donte Ingram and current players Cameron Krutwig, Lucas Williamson, Marquise Kennedy and Tom Welch. With Loyola currently No. 10 in the KenPom ratings and ranked again in the AP Top 25, Moser is proving that a storybook Final Four run in 2018 wasn’t a one-off run at success. The Ramblers have finally tapped into the potential Chicago’s recruiting base provides for a mid-major. The question is how much longer can Loyola keep Moser?

Picture Source: USA TODAY Sports