With the Loyola men’s basketball team back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since its historic Final Four run in 2018, a lot of the discussion among Ramblers fans has been if this year’s team can recreate the magic.
Loyola men’s basketball Chaplain Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM, thinks the No. 8-seeded Ramblers can get close, picking the team to make it all the way back to the Elite Eight.
The 101-year-old is headed to Indianapolis for the first in-person game in over a year.
“We have the talent to do it, and that’s what I’m going to tell the young men: ‘You have the talent, use it and do as you’ve been taught,’” Sister Jean told The Phoenix.
She said she thinks the Ramblers’ defense is key to the team’s success in the tournament.
“We’re aggressive,” Sister Jean said. “If we get the rebounds — that’s the important thing for us. We’re such a defensive team. If we get the rebounds and convert them to points, then that will be our salvation.”
While being one of the final eight teams in the tournament isn’t an easy feat, Loyola faces an especially tall task this year. In their first-round matchup against Georgia Institute of Technology, the Ramblers are going up against “very, very tall guys,” according to Sister Jean.
“I think we’re going to look a little small near them, but that’s okay,” Sister Jean said. “We’re fast. Sometimes the taller fellas aren’t too fast. But they have some fellas there who are really good. I did my research.”
If Loyola is able to advance, the Ramblers could be in for an even tougher task. They’ll most likely face No. 1-seeded University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the second round — with the Illini featuring two Associated Press All-America honorees.
Despite the 2018 squad never crossing paths with a No. 1 seed during its Cinderella run, Sister Jean said she likes Loyola’s chances against the top-seeded Illini, should the matchup happen.
“[Illinois is] good,” Sister Jean said. “They always look older than our fellas do, and they’re big. They’re like football players. We can do it, we have Krutwig who can handle that, and those little fellas can just run down the court faster than anybody.”
Among the other teams Sister Jean picked for the Elite Eight are Gonzaga University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Brigham Young University (BYU), Baylor University, The Ohio State University and West Virginia University.
In the Final Four, Sister Jean penciled in Gonzaga, BYU, Baylor and West Virginia, with Gonzaga and Baylor battling it out in the National Championship — the Bulldogs securing the trophy over the Bears.