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Sister Jean’s Prayers Make Loyola Anything But a Cinderella Story
AP Photo/Matt Marton, File

The most famous figure at the 2021 Men’s NCAA Tournament is a woman. Not just any woman, a 101-year-old nun who was born the same day Babe Ruth tripled and drove and two runs…playing for the Boston Red Sox.

Sister Jean is more than just a famous college basketball fan on the sidelines. She’s the heart and soul of the Loyola Chicago Ramblers every year they go on a March Madness run, and every basketball fan has fallen in love with her.

Much like she was three years ago, Sister Jean is the star of the show. Before the tournament even started, she threw some hilarious shade at Kentucky. She’s the reason the Loyola Ramblers are making a deep run once against after beating Georgia Tech and upsetting No. 1 seed Illinois.

Sister Jean and her praying powers may also be Loyola’s secret weapon.

Sister Jean’s Pregame Prayer vs. Illinois

After Loyola beat Georgia Tech in the first round to advance to the second round to face the one-seed Illinois Fighting Illini, Sister Jean knew the Ramblers needed some help.

In fact, they needed a Hail Mary.

So during the team’s pregame prayer that day in Indianapolis, the team chaplain made her plea to the big man upstairs and included a bit of a scouting report in it:

“As we play the fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win. We hope to score early and make our opponents nervous. We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50% of layups and 30% of its 3 points. Our defense can take care of that…” an excerpt from Sister Jean’s prayer read on the CBS broadcast.

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Call it divine intervention or whatever you’d like, but that worked.

Loyola Chicago won the game by double digits, 71-58. Illinois shot 29 percent from the three-point line. Loyola out-rebounded the Fighting Illini 30-27, per ESPN. All like Sister Jean predicted.

Only time will tell if everyone’s favorite 101-year-old will use her powers when the Ramblers play 12th-seeded Oregon State in the Sweet 16 to advance to the Elite Eight.

Who is Sister Jean?

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Sister Jean’s full name is Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.

The Loyola Chicago superfan was born all the way back on August 21, 1919 in San Francisco, two months after the Treaty of Versailles officially put an end to World War I.

After playing basketball and graduating from St. Paul’s High School in 1937, she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) convent in Iowa.

She taught at Chicago’s Mundelein College and was reportedly active in the civil rights movement of the mid-1960s. It wasn’t until 1991 that Loyola hired her when Mundelein merged into Loyola. She has served as the Ramblers’ team chaplain since 1994.

Sister Jean became a trending topic and Internet sensation for the first time as a young 98-year-old back in 2018, when the Missouri Valley Conference’s Ramblers upset the Miami Hurricanes in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Their incredible postseason run included wins over Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State before they lost to Michigan in the Final Four.

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Now, after the tournament was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 101-year-old is behind another potential magical run.

Led by head coach Porter Moser, the mustached Cameron Krutwig and (of course) Sister Jean, Loyola Chicago took down Big Ten winner Illinois to advance to the Sweet 16 along with Baylor, Villanova, Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Oregon State (who beat Oklahoma State), Syracuse (who beat West Virginia), Houston (who beat Rutgers), Alabama, UCLA, Michigan, Florida State (who beat Colorado), USC, Oregon, Gonzaga and Creighton.

The Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team will almost always be underdogs in every game they play.

As long as they have Sister Jean in their corner, no matchup is too tough. Maybe NBA and NFL teams should be calling her number after this tournament.

MORE: What Happened to Christian Laettner and Where is He Now?

Patrick covered the Florida Gators during the forgettable Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain eras before spending two seasons writing for Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. He lives in South Florida but his heart belongs in Gainesville, Florida.
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