RAMBLING TO THE SECOND ROUND: Some things change, but other stay the same for Sister Jean

Big Tournament

Sister Jean arrives at Hinkle Fieldhouse before Loyola’s NCAA Tournament first round win over Georgia Tech on March 19th.

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INDIANAPOLIS – If you think she was going to give you her scouting report for the Illini on Saturday, you haven’t paid attention to her strategy in the past.

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt would only reveal her scouting report for Loyola’s next opponent to the team, making sure that her advice to the group wouldn’t find their way to their opponent.

That was the case in 2018 when the Ramblers advanced all the way to the Final Four, and is the same as Loyola faces top seed Illinois on Sunday. It’s not done yet, but all she’d reveal is that she watched the Illini’s tight win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament last Sunday.

“But for the rest of my information for Illinois, we might have somebody sitting in this group from there and I don’t want to tell my secret,” said Schmidt. “So when I say the prayer tomorrow with the young men, which I haven’t written yet, because I have to think about it first, then write it, my first draft, and I have it tomorrow for the game.”

While this bit of gamesmanship hasn’t changed, the way that Sister Jean communicates with the team is certainly different.

Many remember her leading the team in a prayer before games then greeting them as they came off the court following the contests. That won’t be the case this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which strictly limits access to players while they remain isolated in Indianapolis.

Instead, the pregame scouting reports and talks will all be done virtually against Illinois, just like they were before the win over Georgia Tech on Friday.

“What they do is connect me by telephone, because I can’t go down on the floor, I can’t go to the locker room, or anything like that. So we communicate by phone,” said Schmidt. “I’ll chat with them first, then I’ll say the prayer with them, where I give my scouting report.

“Porter (Moser) doesn’t mind that I do that, because we’re always on the same page.”

They are when it comes to faith in their teams as well, as Sister Jean believes that the underdog Ramblers can knock off the Illini, who are arguably playing as well as anyone in the tournament. They’ve won 16 of their last 17 games and dismanteled Drexel in their tournament opener on Friday.

Yet the faith doesn’t waiver for the team chaplain, who still has Loyola going to the Elite Eight in the tournament.

“We have a great passion for the game. They did so well yesterday. We weren’t sure about yesterday, but we always felt like we could do it. Like the little engine that could, you just keep puffing along and get relaxed. You could see they got relaxed after the first six minutes and then then they took off.”

Just like the did three years ago, and Sister Jean believes they can do it again during a tournament where something things have changed, but not everything.

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