Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is like the rest of us — she is certain Loyola Chicago was under-seeded.
After all, college basketball’s favorite nun had her Ramblers advancing to the Elite Eight in her NCAA Tournament bracket. So this isn’t a surprise to her.
“Bracketologists watch the games endlessly and watch the plays, but they really don’t know the team,” the team chaplain and diehard fan told reporters on Thursday in a video interview. “I know my team, which I think is why I put such faith and trust in them.”
Sister Jean rose to prominence during Loyola Chicago’s stunning 2018 run to the Final Four. She’s back in the limelight again, with the Ramblers returning to the Sweet 16. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she hasn’t seen any of the players in person since last March, but she has communicated with them virtually, and she has been in attendance for their two wins in Indianapolis. Fully vaccinated, she is hoping for at least two more victories.
“I’ll be jumping — figuratively — I’ll be jumping around just as much as they are,” said the 101-year-old nun, who gets around in a wheelchair. “It would be great to get to the Final Four again, if not a couple of steps more.”
Loyola Chicago meets No. 12 Oregon State on Saturday in a Midwest regional semifinal.
It feels like an inevitability, a national championship showdown between two of the three remaining No. 1 seeds, Gonzaga and Baylor. Two teams that are a combined 52-2 and have cruised into the Sweet 16.
But Gonzaga coach Mark Few snapped at the idea the game is a formality.
“It’s just foolish — that’s absolute foolishness,” Few said, as his team prepared to meet No. 5 Creighton on Sunday in a West regional semifinal.
Overconfidence hasn’t been an issue for Gonzaga, which has gone wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the country. As the No. 1 seed, the Zags have won their two tournament games by a combined 59 points. There has been no let-up.
“They’ve been incredible with just focusing on the next game, even through a WCC season, which isn’t easy when you’re not playing as many high-profile teams,” Few said. “They have the utmost respect for Creighton. They know how good Creighton is. They know how dangerous Creighton is, and if we don’t play really, really good, Creighton will beat us.”
Eugene Omoruyi spent the first three years of his career at Rutgers, where he gradually developed into a difference-making forward. Following his last season there, he switched coasts, landing at Oregon, sitting out last year and emerging this season as an All-Pac-12 first-team selection. But the 6-foot-6 Canadian has kept up with the Scarlet Knights, following them as they snapped the school’s 30-year NCAA Tournament drought.
“I’m just happy for them,” Omoruyi said. “They came a long way. I remember being part of their journey.”
Omoruyi, No. 7 Oregon’s second-leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, is thrilled the Ducks will get a chance for revenge against No. 6 USC in a West region semifinal on Sunday. The Trojans won the lone matchup between the teams, 72-58, on Feb. 22.
“I wanted this game in the Pac-12 Tournament,” he said. “We couldn’t get it there. I’m happy to get it now.”