The top-ranked Illinois is out. The no. 8 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers – and of course sister Jean Dolores Schmidt – are in the Sweet 16 after driving past Fighting Illini, 71-58, on Sunday.
Illinois becomes the first number one to be ousted in this year’s NCAA men’s tournament, falling from the start of the second round in Indianapolis and only sporadically looking better. It was the earliest exit for a region’s best seed since 2018.
And Loyola-Chicago, who reached the Final Four in that 2018 tournament and transformed the team chaplain, known just as Sister Jean, into a joyous symbol of basketball quality, has expanded his record to the ambitions of seemingly more powerful schools to defend the season.
On Friday, Georgia defeated Georgia, who won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Sunday it was Illinois, the winner of the Big Ten tournament and a favorite in brackets from coast to coast, that collapsed.
The Ramblers, who were never behind on Saturday, profited from stealing and turnover. They walk out big runs while a masked sister Jean, now 101, watches, fixing her eyes so often with approval. Most of their points were scored, and three players – Marquise Kennedy, Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson – each had at least 13 points on the day.
In the round of 16, which begins next weekend, Loyola plays the winner of the game between Sunday 4 in Oklahoma State and Oregon State on Sunday night.