While Sunday's 79-61 victory over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville was expected - if not the margin - many of Loyola's other victories this season have been of a more thrilling variety. The Ramblers have defeated Holy Cross, Western Michigan, San Francisco and Bradley in games that came down to the final possession.
Those four wins represent half of Loyola's 8 victories and are the reason the Ramblers are currently ranked as the luckiest team in all of Division I basketball according to Ken Pomeroy.
Now, when Richard Lamar Gillett said, "It's better to be lucky than good," he wasn't talking about college basketball, but it's applicable in this case as well. The Ramblers though are pretty good. The question still is, how good?
An unlikely set of factors has contributed to Loyola winning 8 games thus far. The Ramblers have gotten half-court buzzer beaters, technical fouls for six men on the court and last-second shots of the more conventional variety in pulling off victories.
Can it be credited to Jim Whitesell? Great team chemistry? No one can be really sure, but the Ramblers are playing cohesive basketball right now and sometimes that type of cohesion in a roster and rotation seems to breed a little luck.
Each season someone has to the be the luckiest team in basketball, and every season there is a team or two that will vastly over or under play what the statistics suggest should be the case. While Loyola has overperformed this season, teams like Virginia, Colorado and Stanford have gone the opposite direction. Last season, Western Kentucky rode a little bit of luck all the way to 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament while Georgetown's bad luck found the Hoyas ousted in the first round of the NIT.
The Ramblers are a good basketball team. They'll be much more competitive in the Horizon League than even the most positive predictors could've thought. (I think my prediction of 6th was the highest I saw the Ramblers ranked in preseason.) Sometimes though it's better to be lucky than good.