Sister Jean’s Ramblers rumble their way to the NCAA Final Four
As March comes to a close, brackets are being checked more often than Facebook or Twitter. This year, people have a better chance of emotional stability by checking on their cute dog video feeds than their busted March Madness brackets. After sixteenth seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County, or more famously known on Twitter as UMBC, beat number one seed Virgina, no bracket was safe from the madness.
No one even thought Loyola-Chicago would make it past the first round, expect maybe Sister Jean. Well, they busted her bracket too. Sister Jean is just as famous as the Ramblers success, and the guy who led it all, head coach Porter Moser. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is the 98-year-old nun who serves as chaplain for the Ramblers squad. For the last 25 years she has given the Rambler men faith to play in the game they all love.
She’s become such a symbolic figure in the Ramblers road to the Final Four that the school has even made her her own bobblehead and will be selling them on their athletics website. Her warming prayers and sweetness are just the frosting on the cake for the Ramblers’ season.
Before the Madness, the Ramblers went 15-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference, effortlessly earning the conference title. The Ramblers were lead by red shirt junior and the Missouri Valley conference MVP, Clayton Custer with 13.2 points per game and a 52.7 field goal percentage. 13.2 points per game seems like a rather low number for a player with e caliber to be entering the Final Four, but that’s exactly what coach Moser wants.
The Ramblers team is so dynamic. The ball is always moving from one teammate to another. In the paint, the Ramblers look to two big guys, senior Donte Ingram and freshman Cameron Krutwig for their post game and rebounding needs. With the extra help of strong contributors like Junior Marques Townes and Senior Aundre Jackson averaging ten points a game, right behind Ingram And Cluster, it makes it easy to share the wealth, but all that much more difficult to guard these Ramblers.
Once tournament time rolled around, the Ramblers weren’t too surprised with their seeding in the south region at the 11 seed. Unlike the March Madness powerhouses like Duke and Villanova, the Ramblers were barely at five tournament appearances, and only claimed one tournament championship in 1963.
The Ramblers tipped off in Dallas for the first round of tournament play against the sixth seed with nothing on their minds but basketball and Sister Jean’s prayers. Custer led the way in scoring for the Ramblers, but Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beater three-pointer is what won the Ramblers their shot to possibly win it all. In a too-close for comfort game, the Ramblers beat the sixth seeded Miami team to advance to the second round in a 64-62 win over the Hurricanes.
Two days later, making it into the sweet sixteen, the Ramblers took their chances with number three seed Tennessee. No one is sure if Sister Jean’s prayers aren’t getting through with the bad reception in these huge arenas, or the Ramblers just want to keep things interesting, but they sure gave Chicago something to cheer about.
This time it was Cluster’s turn to hit that buzzer-beater. The Ramblers were never able to get a steady lead, and it seemed as though, with a little extra push, Tennessee may just win it all. But, Cluster and the Ramblers prevailed pulling off a tight 63-62 win.
Once again, Loyola made Chicago sweat through all their layers and maroon and gold scarves when they faced Nevada in their sweet sixteen game. As the team would argue, the scoring wealth was shared on the team, especially when it comes to bracket-busting, game-winning shots. When it came down for the Ramblers now famous last shot, it was Marques Townes turn to play. Clinging to a one point lead, Townes drowned in a three to secure a Ramblers win, and a spot in the Elite 8.
When the Ramblers broke free from their buzzer-beater-or-nothing pattern, Loyola fans were relieved. In their Elite 8 game against Kansas State, the Ramblers came out too strong for the Wildcats, who were missing considerably their best player and a strong offensive presence in Dean Wade.
The Ramblers took their first significant lead over the Wildcats, and never looked back. They stole the Wildcat’s chances at the title, winning 78-62.
Loyola is now the last double-digit number to head into the final four. At this point, it’s not impossible to see the Ramblers head to the championship game. With a top 30 defense, top 15 percentage in two pointers and three pointers and wins from seeds way lower than their own, Why not Loyola?
If the Ramblers were to make it all the way, it may as well go down as one of the best NCAA tournament stories in history. All we can hope now, is that Sister Jean’s twenty five years of praying will finally pay off.