The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, and Sister Jean, Return to the Round of 16


Since teams began arriving more than a week ago in Indianapolis, the hub for the entire tournament this year, players have been tested for the coronavirus daily and largely confined to their hotels, each team alone on its own floor. The extraordinary setup is an attempt to keep the virus at bay, but it could not prevent Virginia Commonwealth from exiting shortly before its first game, scheduled for Saturday night against Oregon, after an outbreak within the team.

The chaotic regular season, with cancellations, postponements, pauses and fluctuating results, has, not surprisingly, led to a haywire results.

Loyola’s upset was the latest in a tournament that has been rife with them. A record nine double-digit seeds advanced out of the first round with teams like Oral Roberts, Abilene Christian and North Texas moving on. Ohio advanced, but Ohio State did not.

Loyola’s victory, though surprising, was not a shock.

The Ramblers (26-4), who won the Missouri Valley Conference, were seeded eighth in the Midwest region, despite the N.C.A.A.’s own metric system and the more credible Pomeroy college basketball ratings, which assessed the Ramblers as a top 10 team.

“I certainly thought we were misplaced,” said Sister Jean, dressed in her letterman’s jacket with small maroon-and-gold balloons adorning her wrist from her perch halfway up the arena. “Sometimes when the committee makes decisions, sometimes it’s heart, sometimes it’s head, sometimes it’s numbers, sometimes it’s — I hate to say the last word — it’s politics.”

The good Sister, now 101 years old and fully vaccinated, has shown the same sort of resiliency as the players. She reached an agreement with the university last week to travel to Indianapolis, drawing on the biblical parable of an old woman in the Gospel of Luke who petitions a judge to grant her wishes until he eventually concedes, saying, “Let her do what she wants.”


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