When Loyola-Chicago joined the A10, Saint Louis University likely had the most excited fanbase for the addition. The St. Louis-Chicago rivalry is one of the great sports rivalries in America, with both Cards-Cubs and Blues-Blackhawks being elite rivalries in their respective sports. With the Ramblers’ addition to the A10, the two Jesuit institutions in those respective cities get to square off too. While Loyola’s start has been rocky (that is to say, winless in the A10), the SLU-Loyola showdown last night at Gentile Arena was the social event of the year so far for Billiken basketball fans. The Chaifetzes, President Fred Pestello, and AD Chris May were all in attendance, alongside a sizable cohort of Billiken fans.
Loyola may be winless in the A10, but the fans and student section showed up and the ‘Blers had a strong start, going into the half down only 4. The Billikens ultimately pulled away in the second half though, going on to win the game by 17 on the back of a vintage Javonte Perkins performance. Both fanbases made themselves heard at various points of the game, and the benefits for SLU having a new conference rival in Chicago was readily apparently.
Though Loyola has looked rather out of place in the A10, not only losing all of their conference games, but losing all of their conference games by an average of over double digits, last night’s game was a great reminder of how nice it is to have regional opponents. For SLU, the biggest downside of the A10 is being so far west of everyone in an East Coast league. Dayton is the only team within reasonable driving distance, and while the ArchBaron Cup is of course college basketball’s premier rivalry, having conference opponent in Chicago, especially another Jesuit school, gives SLU fans another natural rivalry in a league somewhat devoid of natural foes for a Midwestern Jesuit school.
Overall, the atmosphere absolutely delivered. SLU fans came out in numbers and Gentile Arena is a beautiful arena and a great place to watch a basketball game. SLU-Loyola has the potential to be a great rivalry for years to come (It is one that requires a proper name, I’ll be thinking of ideas). While the Ramblers have struggled out the gate, it’s a strong basketball program with very nice facilities in a city full of basketball talent. Odds are they’ll become a strong A10 program very soon. And for SLU fans, it’s just nice being able to enjoy more Atlantic 10 games near Midwestern freshwater as opposed to the Atlantic coast!