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Nun, 98, Carries Cinderella Team To NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four

If you’ve watched any of the NCAA men’s collegiate basketball championship, then you know about Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.

The 98-year-old nun is a spiritual leader for the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who have been the Cinderella story of the annual basketball tournament. Sister Jean is the team’s chaplain, leading prayers before each game. And so far, it’s working.

On Saturday, No. 11 seed Loyola blew out No. 9 Kansas State, 78-62 — and the game wasn’t even that close, as the Ramblers often had a 20-plus point lead throughout the game. The Ramblers have also beaten a 6 seed, a 3 seed and a 7 seed, but now faces a tough 3 seed in Michigan, which is a 6-point favorite.

But does Michigan have something to counter Sister Jean?

“I mean, that’s about it. I just know you see her all over social media. But I don’t know too much,” Michigan senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman told USA Today.

The wheelchair-bound nun “has became one the most recognizable figures in US sports following the team’s back-to-back upset wins in the NCAA Tournament, college basketball’s end-of-season showdown that has Americans glued to their screens for most of March,’ the Guardian reports.

Dolores-Schmidt, who has fond memories of celebrating Loyola’s last championship win in 1963, was a cult figure in Chicago sports even before she became the team’s chaplain in 1994. But she’s no mere mascot and she offers more than just thoughts and prayers. The former player and coach provides scouting reports, pregame speeches and postgame analysis by email, along with more spiritual guidance.

“She’s like another coach,” guard Donte Ingram told the Chicago Tribune. “[In my first ever game], it caught me off guard. I thought she was just going to pray. She prayed, but then she starts saying, ‘You’ve got to box out and watch out for 23.’”

Sister Jean’s fame blew up after an interview following Loyola’s buzzer beating win over the higher-ranked Miami on Thursday. Sister Jean made an immediate impression on TV audiences, as she celebrated in her wheelchair draped in the team’s Gryffindor-esque scarf. Once she was interviewed, her obvious love for the team and her basketball smarts won viewers’ hearts.

She even gives the coach tips on how to play different opponents, and asked God to make sure the referees called a good game.

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