Cinderella Loyola Dances Into Final Four
March 26, 2018

With all of the bracket busting going on, there will still be a number seed in the NCAA men's basketball championship game next week. That said, the opponent could be a team that no one really ever heard of outside of the state of Illinois. If you are a small school from a small conference and win a couple of post-season games to make it to the 'Sweet Sixteen', you are a quite a story. Winning two more to get to the championship weekend is unheard of.

If you haven't been following the madness, meet the Ramblers of Loyola University of Chicago. They were the regular season champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, and defeated Illinois State in the conference tournament title game. They got an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament South Region. They went to Dallas and knocked out sixth seed Miami and third seed Tennessee. Earning a trip to the regionals in Atlanta, they defeated seventh seed Nevada by one point, and then ninth seed Kansas State for a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio.

Playing with house money, the Ramblers now face Michigan on Saturday, and if they win that one, will battle either Villanova (located in Philadelphia) or Kansas for the championship. Face it, folks in 47 states are rooting for Loyola to go the distance. They are, after all, on a mission from God.

The Jesuit school not only has adopted the line from The Blues Brothers, but also have an unofficial mascot in a woman known as Sister Jean. The 98 year-old nun, depicted with Jake and Elwood in the above photo, is the Ramblers biggest fan, and has been at every game. She's also the team chaplain.

Jean Delores Schmidt even now has a bobblehead, and pre-order sales ahead of the Final Four have set records. The school even licensed her name and image (with Sister Jean's blessing of course). She's more famous than the players, and the players really wouldn't have it any other way. Marques Towns sank the three-pointer to beat Nevada. Ben Richardson had a career high 23 in the K-State win. Richardson's boyhood friend Clayton Custer is the point guard, who hit the game winner against Tennessee. You'll hear those names again this weekend, but the “face of the franchise” is Sister Jean.

As far as we know, the nun didn't break out of the joint in Joliet, and maybe it was her who put the band back together after the Ramblers last tourney appearance in 1985, but no matter what happens now, Loyola has secured their place in the annals of March Madness Two more wins, though, and the school, the tournament, and the sport will never be never be the same again.

TV Times: In the somewhat bizarre Turner-CBS marriage that allows us to watch all 67 tournament games on four different networks, one of the provisions of the deal is that TBS gets the Final Four and Championship once every four years. This is one of those years. You still hear the CBS theme music, and CBS' Jim Nantz will have the play-by-play, but the games are on TBS. While viewers love the undergogs, the networks still seem to love the big dogs. The Loyola-Michigan game will the first game Saturday (at 3pm PT), followed by the stalwart number one seeds Villanova and Kansas (at approximately 5:50). Odd that Loyola-Chicago isn't quite ready for prime time, after all they've been through.

Trash talkin' granny: A great story in the Washington Post shows that Sister Jean isn't the oldest college basketball fan alive. Former NBA and Michigan player Jalen Rose's 100 year-old grandmother called out Sister Jean's team, saying the Ramblers run will end Saturday against the Wolverines. Hashtag 100.

Pull up a chair: The Angels and Dodgers are hooking up in the annual exhibition Freeway Series before the baseball season begins for real on Thursday, and two things are weird about it. One, it's a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday series whereas in the past it's been on a weekend. And two, even though it's now our second year without him, the series was often the first time you would hear Vin Scully behind the microphone. Reality sets in, again.

Yesterday morning, heading out of town for a Spring Break vacation, two Nevada Union High School students were killed when their car was struck by a drunk driver who crossed the median on Interstate 5 in Merced County near Los Banos. A third student was injured. The two killed were 17 year-old Tyler Nielsen, a senior, and 16 year-old Justin Gardner, a sophomore. Both played football and Gardner also played basketball, and I knew them both covering their games. The drunk driver was a 21 year-old woman, not much older than the kids she hit. As you can imagine, the school, the community, and the rest of us are in shock. Life is definitely not fair.

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