Loyola continues to dance... Cinderella story continues on improbable run
The poet Emily Dickinson once wrote that “a little Madness in the Spring is wholesome even for the King.”
For Loyola-Chicago, who became just the fourth 11th seed in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to make a Final Four, they’re providing wholesome March Madness for king and commoner alike.
The Ramblers thumped ninth-seeded Kansas State 78-62 in the Elite Eight on Saturday to head to the tournament’s third and final weekend, where they will face Michigan on Saturday for the right to take on a top-three seed from the other side of the bracket (Texas Tech, Villanova, Duke and Kansas will vie for that honor first in Sunday’s Elite Eight games and then in the opposite game in the Final Four) for all the marbles.
LSU was the first 11th seed to make the Final Four after the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985; they did so the very next year, in 1986. The Tigers hold the distinction of being the only team to beat the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeds on their side of the bracket in the same Final Four run.
George Mason made the Final Four in the “Year of the Mid-Major” at the 2006 tournament; that year, a total of eight at-large bids came from outside of the power conferences, including three at-larges from the Missouri Valley. Despite heavy criticism from media personalities like Billy Packer, George Mason validated the Selection Committee’s faith in giving them an at-large by getting all the way to the semifinal.
Virginia Commonwealth University was the third 11th seed to make the Final Four, doing so in 2011; not only was it the third 11 to advance that far, it was the first and so far the only team to do it after having to win a play-in game as part of the NCAA’s “First Four” format that accompanied the expansion from 65 teams to 68 in the 2010-11 season.
If Loyola does the impossible and wins the whole thing, it will be the first non-power-conference school to win the title since UNLV came out of the Big West and won the national championship in 1990.
The Ramblers played a nearly perfect basketball game in beating Kansas State. They shot 57.4 percent from the field overall, hit half of their 18 3-point attempts and weathered a 14-3 run late by the Wildcats that cut a 61-38 lead down to 64-52 with 4:19 to play.
Marques Townes, whose 3-point dagger put Nevada on ice, canned two free throws then converted an and-one to put the Ramblers back up 17 and the game out of reach.
Kansas State hit just 34.8 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from long range; the game wouldn’t even have been as close as it was had the Wildcats not forced 15 turnovers while committing only six.
What a season for Loyola Chicago… and they're not done yet!#MarchMadness #FinalFour #OnwardLU pic.twitter.com/Fn4hng5ueE
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 25, 2018
Going into the Final Four, the Ramblers are the sentimental fan favorite, not only because they’re an underdog story of a sort that March Madness tends to exalt but because they have one of the most beloved superfans in college basketball, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who seven years ago became, as far as can be determined, the only Jesuit nun ever honored with her own bobblehead by a college basketball team.
Sister Jean is the school chaplain; her official capacity is to offer prayer and ministry for the Catholic university. She also has a sparkling sense of humor, as she demonstrated before one game.
Sister Jean asked the referee, “How are the eyes tonight?”
The ref replied, “If they’re not working I’m going to borrow your glasses.”
With Easter Sunday coming and Lent in full swing, someone asked Sister Jean what she gave up for Lent and the nun replied, “Losing.”
@SteveLavin64 They asked Sister Jean what she gave up for Lent? Her answer Losing! Classic!
— Mike Murphy (@mj21murphy) March 25, 2018
She’s even got her own Michael Jackson parody song, courtesy of The Ringer:
And just in case you thought you’d seen the coolest thing in history, whatever it is you thought you saw, tell it to move over for a 98-year-old nun in a backward baseball cap:
Sister Jean is 98 years old and still fresher than you ? pic.twitter.com/JrrFFjtAG5
— SB Nation (@SBNation) March 25, 2018
For the Ramblers, a quote from a certain other Chicago cultural icon comes to mind as they face the Wolverines:
“We’re on a mission from God.”
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