INDIANAPOLIS — Sister Jean’s roadshow has been extended.
Loyola-Chicago, and its 101-year-old team chaplain, are headed for the Sweet 16 after stunning top-seeded Illinois 71-58, which had been a trendy pick to reach the title game if not win the whole NCAA men’s tournament. It’s yet another remarkable achievement for the mid-major, which reached the Final Four as an 11 seed three years ago, and could be an omen of sorts. Back in 1963, when the Ramblers won the school’s only national title, they beat Illinois in the NCAA tournament, too.
For Illinois and the Big Ten, it’s yet another shocking loss. The Big Ten sent nine teams to the tournament, including No. 1 seeds Illinois and Michigan, and is down to just five before the first weekend is over.
Loyola was the darling of the tournament in 2018, an old-school team built on defense and solid fundamentals with a then-99-year-old nun for a “mascot.” Though only two players are left from that Final Four team, Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson, this team has many of the same characteristics. And it still has Sister Jean, who is calling in all the favors she can.
Fully vaccinated, she badgered Loyola and NCAA officials about coming to Indianapolis until they finally relented. (She did have to promise not to rush the court.) In her pre-game prayer Sunday, she asked “for special help to overcome this team and get a great win. We hope to score early and make our opponents nervous.”
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