Underdogs bring the madness in NCAA tournament

Locria Courtright, Assistant Sports Editor

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the home of the unpredictable — they don’t call the tournament “March Madness” for nothing.

This year’s tournament has lived up to the moniker in the form of two teams: the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Loyola University Chicago.

The No. 16 UMBC Retrievers, who stunned UVM in the America East Championship on a buzzer-beater, looked doomed when the bracket came out and put them against the top overall seed University of Virginia.

The Cavaliers were notorious for their stingy defense, which led them to a 31-2 record going into the tournament.

But the Retrievers stunned the nation.

Not only did they beat the Cavs for the first 16-over-1 upset in men’s tournament history, but they blew them out by 20 points, running away with a 74-54 win in Charlotte.

Jairus Lyles, who had broken Catamount hearts a week earlier, became a national celebrity after scoring 28 points in the winning effort.

Their run ended a game later when an inability to score led to a 50-44 loss to No. 9 Kansas State University.

One Cinderella that persisted, however, was the Loyola Chicago Ramblers, who had won the Missouri Valley Conference’s auto bid and entered the tournament as a No. 11 seed.

The Ramblers hadn’t made the tournament since 1985.

A No. 11 seed is usually lucky to make the Sweet 16. But when the Final Four began in San Antonio, there were the Ramblers, duking it out against the Michigan Wolverines, the first 11 seed to make the Final Four since Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011.

While the media buzzed around the Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the Ramblers players were able to execute on the court.

Their run started with a last-second win in the first round over the No. 6 Miami Hurricanes.

They followed that up with another buzzer-beater to defeat the No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers to reach the Sweet 16.

Loyola then edged the No. 7 Nevada Wolfpack by one to reach the Elite Eight — a round the Ramblers hadn’t made since their sole 1963 national championship.

In that Elite Eight, the Ramblers steamrolled Kansas State by 16, earning a place in the Final Four.

Unfortunately for the Ramblers, the Final Four was where the run ended.

Despite leading for stretches of the game, they fell 69-57 to Michigan.

But just as UMBC did, Loyola, 98-year-old basketball-loving nun and all, won the hearts of a nation.