Sports

Loyola-Chicago Won Thanks to God and 98-Year-Old Nun Sister Jean’s Scouting Report

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17:  Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt celebrates after the Loyola Ramblers beat the Tennessee Volunteers 63-62 in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at the American Airlines Center on March 17, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt celebrates after the Loyola Ramblers beat the Tennessee Volunteers 63-62 in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at the American Airlines Center on March 17, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After needing a last-second game-winner to make it out of the first round, Loyola-Chicago found itself in another tough spot on Saturday. In its second-round NCAA Tournament game against Tennessee, the Ramblers squandered a ten-point lead and fell behind with just 21 seconds remaining. Enter Clayton Custer, who managed to bring the thunder while falling away and nearly short-arming his shot.

While this was the Ramblers’ second miracle in three days, Loyola-Chicago is hardly a lucky upstart. In the words of Custer, “I don’t always say this, but I got to give glory to God on that one.”

The Ramblers are a talented, well-drilled team, but they also benefit from an almighty secret weapon: Sister Jean Delores Schmidt.

The 98-year-old nun and Ramblers team chaplain has become the breakout star of March Madness. Some might argue she’s already overexposed, but that’s a take that will get you sent straight to hell.

Sister Jean does more than lead pre-game prayers and give post-game interviews. She also shares basketball advice with the Ramblers squad and coaching staff and prepares scouting reports on their opponents. Here’s what she had to say ahead of Saturday’s game against Tennessee:

Seeing as the game has already transpired, we have the opportunity to fact-check Sister Jean’s advice. In other words, we’re applying more scrutiny to a 98-year-old nun’s basketball acumen than anyone has ever given Charles Barkley. Here goes.

“I noticed that No. 1, 2, and 5 are perhaps the ones that are going to cause Loyola the most trouble.”

Sister Jean highlighted Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner (1), Grant Williams (2), and Admiral Schofield (5), and she was right on the money. Each scored in double figures and gave the Ramblers fits. A 3-pointer by Turner cut Loyola-Chicago’s advantage to two before Williams converted an and-one layup to give Tennessee a 62-61 lead in the game’s waning moments.

A good scouting report is only as useful as the execution that follows, and the Ramblers were lucky the Volunteers left enough time on the clock to allow for Custer’s game-winner. Sister Jean works in mysterious ways.

“I also noticed that the Tennessee men are tall and well built, and they’re ready to go.”

Sister Jean is perceptive, and her keen assessment of Tennessee men is a reminder that nothing slips past her gaze. The Ramblers were prepared as a result and managed to keep the Vols off the boards, winning the rebounding battle 27 to 24. Tennessee went 8 for 14 inside the arc but only 9 for 25 from 3-point range, meaning the Vols would have been wise to consider Sister Jean’s scouting report themselves.

Sister Jean’s giving advice out for free here. You can either take it or risk suffering the same fate as Tennessee.

“Tennesee’s defense is very good, and because they are so tall, that makes a difference with our young men, who are just a little bit shorter.”

Loyola-Chicago shot 50 percent from the field against the Vols’ vaunted defense. Tennessee did manage to block two shots, but the Ramblers’ ball movement was key in manufacturing open looks. Would they have done this had they not been warned by Sister Jean about the rangy Volunteers? God only knows.

Well, God and Ramblers reserve center Carson Shanks, who gave Sister Jean credit after the game by shouting, “That was all you!” before giving her a hug.

The Ramblers face either Nevada or Cincinnati in the next round. You better believe Sister Jean is already watching tape on both.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

• How Good Was Loyola-Chicago’s Last-Second Game Winner?

• It Happened! No. 16 Seed UMBC Just Made the Mount Rushmore of Sports Upsets.

• Cody or Caleb? How to Tell Nevada’s Twin Basketball Stars Apart.

Nick Greene is a Slate contributing writer.