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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Loyola, others travel through blizzard

By Eamonn Brennan

Charlotte's great. I really like it here. Traffic isn't much of an issue, at least in my experience; the airport was in-and-out; my hotel is within walking distance of pizza, bars, burritos and even a Pei Wei; and hey, check this out: It's 60 degrees today! I really can't complain.

But I'm not exactly in Charlotte by choice. At least not anymore. After filming yesterday's ESPNU College Basketball Experts show, I was supposed to fly back to Chicago late last night, but because a monstrous snowstorm has pretty much shut down the entire midwest, I'm in the south until tomorrow. At the earliest. When you can't drive on Lake Shore, you can't fly planes into O'Hare. Makes sense.

Which is why what the Loyola Chicago men's hoops team did last night is so, well, surprising? Impressive? Downright dumb? All of the above?

The Ramblers -- never has that nickname been so apt -- left their north-side city digs at approximately 1:45 p.m. yesterday. They arrived in Dayton for today's game with Wright State at 12:45 a.m. On a normal day, that trip takes five hours. Yesterday, according to an e-mail from Loyola spokesman Bill Behrns, it was a "five-movie trip." And the fun didn't stop there:
So, a trip that normally would take five hours via bus, took 10 hours, or twice as long, and was complete with a detour due to Interstate 70 being closed just before the Indiana-Ohio border. It was a five-movie trip. When we arrived at our hotel in Dayton, they had just gotten full power restored after running on a back-up power generator due to the ice storm that hit the Dayton area. All in all, a long day for everyone involved with the travel party, but we are happy to have arrived safely and give credit to both of our bus drivers for getting us to Dayton safely and without incident.

It's a little bit remarkable that any Chicago-area team was able to make it anywhere yesterday or today. Chicago usually scoffs at snow. The city rarely closes schools for weather; it almost never tells people to stay home from work. But this storm is different. The city is shut down. My friends, usually stuck in offices on Wednesday afternoons, are planning poker games and home movie hangouts. And even when the snow moves out, the temperatures are supposed to plummet, roads are supposed to freeze, and the National Weather Service keeps sending out one dire warning after the next.

After spending a good deal of time on hold this morning, I was finally told by a travel agent to forget it. Not only because it "wasn't going to happen," but because "you don't want to be in Chicago, anyway."

Given all this, you'd expect more basketball-related cancellations. But Loyola Chicago made its trip. Indiana announced its game with Minnesota Wednesday night is on. (The title of IU's press release? "Game On." Awesome.) In fact, it seems most -- if not all! -- of the college hoops contests in the Midwest are going to take place tonight. That's surprising in any case, but especially so when you consider that most mid-major schools, like Loyola Chicago, don't have charter planes and high-resource transport options at their disposal. They're just busing. Five movies, six movies, whatever.

I'm not sure that's always the wisest option, but as long as everyone's safe, bring in the hoops. Or, if you prefer: game on, Garth.