In A Tournament Of Underdogs, Learn To Like Loyola-Chicago

Ramblers Take A Backseat To Nun You can’t not like underdogs in the NCAA basketball tournament. They may not win a lot, but their stories of achievement are far...

Ramblers Take A Backseat To Nun

You can’t not like underdogs in the NCAA basketball tournament.

They may not win a lot, but their stories of achievement are far from those of the usual favorites loaded with top recruits, many of whom conclude their college “education” in a single year.

We had UMBC for a few brief moments after the Retrievers became the first of 136 No. 16 seeds to defeat a No.1 (Virginia, which was also No.1 overall). UMBC put up a good fight thereafter against Kansas State but lost. UMNC will remain the stuff of legend (and cleverly-marketed t-shirts), as will George Mason, a No. 11 seed that made the Final Four in 2006 when no No. 1 seed reached the Final Four.

Which brings us, roundabout, to Chicago-Loyola. Want a loveable ‘dog? Oh, you will love the Ramblers.

First, the Catholic school has a 98-year-old chaplain … Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. This basketball-loving nun gives counsel to the players, prays with them and looks at tape of upcoming opponents to offer scouting tips. She can tell players what to do when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Sister Jean has been the team chaplain since 1994, which predates the birth of all of the team’s players.

This Jesuit school has 11,000 undergraduates and won the NCAA basketball championship in 1963. It has been primarily known of late, in sports circles, for its men’s volleyball team, which essentially means it is unknown. If you are a student paying the full freight for room, board, tuition, books and other necessities, your tab is a bit over $60,000 a year. Hey, good to have something to cheer about for $60k.

The Ramblers upset Miami and Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16 and they will play Nevada on Thursday night. The Ramblers are a 1 ½-point underdog but they are 30-5 overall and have lost only once since Jan. 3. As you would expect from any worthy ‘dog, the Ramblers play outstanding defense, allowing 62.2 points per game. Nevada (29-7) comes off an upset of a No. 2 seed, Cincinnati.

You may root for Duke or Michigan or Kentucky if you wish. They’re talented and well-coached and “name” programs with large followings. But if you like to see the teams that struggle for every scrap they get and are grateful for it, you might want to watch the Ramblers against the Wolf Pack.

Win or lose, the Ramblers are already winners.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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