Villanova All The Way, Baby!

  

Villanova looks invincible, and virtually, if not totally unstoppable. The Wildcats dismantled Kansas on Saturday night in the second half of the Final Four, and it was so bad it wasn’t worth staying up to watch till the bitter sweet end to hear the final buzzer sound.  So that’s that.  Villanova will defeat Michigan tonight, and it might not even be close.

As for the Cinderella team that everyone wanted to see win it all, the ballerina’s debutant ball ended all too early for Loyola-Chicago. Sister Jean’s prayers took them farther than she thought, but not as far as they wanted to go.

And that sounds just like life. Sometimes our prayers are answered immediately, and other times we must do exactly as the hymn writer says: “watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.” Sometimes the best place to be is found in Jesus and lost in God.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Sometimes the lessons we must learn are more important than getting an “A” on the test. And sometimes the final grade is not as important as the scores of notes we’ve taken along the way. If March Madness doesn’t teach us anything, then the madness has been for nothing. The life lessons we learn along this sometimes rocky road called life can’t be for naught. They just can’t be.

In everything there is a lesson. One of them is everything is subject to change. Because the only constant is change. We must be ready to roll with the punches and rock with the boat. And that’s what winners that did not expect to win many games, such as Loyola-Chicago and UMBC and Kansas State did.  And the losers that did not expect to lose, or to lose so early, such as UVA and North Carolina and Kansas, had to handle unexpected headache and heartbreak too.

Sports helps us with the fact that in life, you win some and you lose some. And that’s just the way it is. Because it’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Always Believe In The Underdog!

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Loyola-Chicago’s Lucas Williamson, Nick Dinardi and Christian Negron, from left, celebrate winning a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Kansas State, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Atlanta. Loyola-Chicago won 78-62. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

 How can you NOT root for Loyola-Chicago?  They just beat Kansas State and won their way to the Final Four in San Antonio. They’ve turned the 2018 NCAA Tournament into the Loyola-Chicago Invitational. And they’ve got Sister Jean!  What’s not to like?

Loyola-Chicago’s coach, Porter Moser, is the ultimate X’s and O’s kind of guy. He’s all heart with a good head on his shoulders, to boot. He genuinely cares for his kids, and he is a genius when it comes to the game of basketball. Backdoor cuts leading to layups are part of the brilliant game plan he drew up these last two weekends for his upstart underdog team.  Yes, the Ramblers are for real!  They are going to the Final Four for the second time since 1963 when they won the National Championship.  Wow.

 “Unlike the other mid-major 11 seeds that made the Final Four (particularly George Mason in 2006 and Virginia Commonwealth in 2011), this Loyola team looks particularly dangerous. These last two weeks weren’t about a hot shooting run or pulling off a series of mega-upsets. Loyola simply played to its level in every game, got a little bit of late-game good fortune and could be a real threat to get to the championship game”.http://www.wwltv.com/article/news/nation-world/loyola-chicago-takes-down-kansas-state-to-continue-historic-run-to-final-four/507-531843318 For the Ramblers didn’t make it here by accident — they are 31-5, after all — and are a result of a perfect storm of coaching, talent and long hours.

“We understand why people are rooting for us,” guard Clayton Custer said. “It’s why people love this tournament. They love rooting for teams that they don’t see all the time, and maybe they picked us in our bracket. But we know we belong here. We know we deserve to be here.” I love it. 

You just gotta believe.

March Madness: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

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“Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

UVA made history. So did UMBC and so did Loyola-Chicago and so did Buffalo. UVA was the first No. 1 Seed to lose to a 16 Seed. Likewise, UMBC has the distinct honor of being the first 16 Seed to upset a No. 1 Seed. It’s never happened before, and we all thought that it never would. Correction: we didn’t believe it ever could. But it did.

Loyola-Chicago, an 11 Seed, defeated Miami, a Six Seed, and then turned right around and defeated Tennessee, a Three Seed. Madness.   Buffalo, seeded 13, THIRTEEN!, beat Arizona, a 4 Seed — in the first round. And that’s just for starters.

Xavier, another No. 1 Seed, is gone. North Carolina and Cincinnati, both No. 2 Seeds, are gone too, and so is Michigan State, a No. 3 Seed. Notice a trend here? Houston beat Michigan – no wait, Michigan actually won! And on a buzzer beater by a freshman, no less! Goodness! And it’s going to snow tomorrow night! Talk about March Madness. There was barely a bad game in the tournament. Yes some were tough to watch because of poor officiating and spells of sporadic shooting, but all in all, it’s seems to be the year of the underdog. We could talk all day about UMBC beating UVA, but how about Nevada’s win?

Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound for the tiebreaking basket with 9.1 seconds left as University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) erased a 22-point deficit in the final minutes of a stunning 75-73 victory over Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. UNR’s stirring comeback — the second-largest in tournament history — came just two days after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from 14 points down to beat Texas 87-83 for its first NCAA victory since 2007.

The Wolf Pack (28-7) move on to an all-upstart South Region semifinal matchup with 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (30-5) on Thursday. Cincinnati, the No. 2 seed, never trailed until Hall’s tiebreaking basket but watched its lead disintegrate as it failed to make a basket in the final 5:45.

Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

This year, perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, there have been more upsets, comebacks and turnarounds than you can shake a stick at. We’ve seen epic victories, historic collapses, and a little of bit everything else in between. It’s so much like living in the Bible days, it’s scary. It’s almost as if the Bible is coming off of the pages, or up out of your smart phone. The holy writ says that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”. That’s what we’re seeing here.

It’s so spiritual, it’s so mystical, and it’s so applicable to everyday life in general and to our lives in specific that we have no choice but to stop and take note. How are the teams who no one picked to win winning with reckless abandon?   

I submit that we must acknowledge the otherworldly dimension of sports. But before you dismiss this notion, hear me out.  Not everyone believes in prayer, but those that do believe that faith and works actually work together for good. Mix some elbow grease in with a good game plan and teamwork and a technical reason for how David defeated Goliath and, viola, you get Loyola-Chicago winning two games in this tournament, and  UBMC trumping over an overconfident and (shall we say overly arrogant?) Virginia team that swears by its “system” come what may.

Miracles do happen on ice and yes, on the hardwood. You may not be a believer, but after this weekend’s upsets, comebacks and turnarounds, I don’t see how you can’t be.

Every Team Needs A Sister Jean

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Who is Sister Jean? Meet Loyola-Chicago’s Spiritual Guide and Biggest Fan

“It’s hard to call Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt an overnight sensation. After all, she’s been following basketball at Loyola University-Chicago for more than a half century and said she saw the Ramblers win the NCAA title in 1963. But thanks to television, the internet and social media, the 98-year-old nun has become a media darling.

With victories against Miami and Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers are hoping for more spiritual guidance when they face the winner of the Cincinnati-Nevada game in next week’s Sweet 16.

Here are some things you might not have known about Loyola-Chicago’s inspirational leader.

Praying for victory: As the basketball team’s chaplain since 1994, Sister Jean begins every prayer the same way: “Good and gracious God.” But if you’re thinking she does not invoke the deity for a little help to win, think again. “I ask God to be especially good to Loyola so that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard indicates a big ‘W’ for us,” she told The New York Times. She ends every prayer with an emphatic “Go Ramblers.” Judging from some of the shots Loyola-Chicago has been burying during this tournament — Clayton Custer’s game-winner against Tennessee comes to mind — these prayers have been answered so far.

She’s a Hall of Famer: Loyola-Chicago inducted Sister Jean into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame in 2017, making her the 173rd member to be enshrined. Born in San Francisco in 1919, Sister Jean played basketball in high school.

Good scouting: Every season, Sister Jean researches the boxscores of upcoming opponents, using her sharp eye for detail to point out flaws in the Ramblers’ next foe. Coach Porter Moser found a manila folder on his desk on his first day as coach, according to NCAA.com. Sister Jean had compiled a scouting report on the Ramblers to help the new coach. “She lights up every room she goes into.” Moser told the Times. “She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that.”

She has her own bobblehead: Loyola-Chicago held a bobblehead promotion night for Sister Jean in 2011.

Super sneakers: Sister Jean has a pair of maroon-and-gold Nike sneakers that she wears during each game. Two names are stitched on the sneaker’s heels: “Sister” on the left heel, and “Jean” on the right.

It’s been quite a ride for Loyola-Chicago, which has knocked off two highly touted programs. Now, the Ramblers will have to go against Sister Jean (they hope to prove her wrong) in the Sweet 16: She picked the Ramblers to lose in that round”. http://www.fox13memphis.com/news/trending-now/sister-jean-doloresschmidt-5-things-to-know/717742144 

Why We Love March Madness

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Do uou really need any more madness? I mean really?  I mean, who needs any more madness? You would think that what you have is plenty enough, with room to spare.  With the job and the kids and the bills and the boss and all of the other stuff you’ve got on your plate, who needs any more madness?  I’ve got a crazy job and a crazier job situation (I’m looking, but you are too, right?) and I’m trying to multitask with more irons in the fire than you can shake a stick at. But the answer is crazier than the question. The answer is just a little more madness. March madness.

Somehow and for some strange, mysterious, mercurial reason, the weather in March and basketball in March are bosom buddies. Both are fickle and variable. Both are arbitrary and capricious. Both are warm and fuzzy one day and cold and callous the next. And we love and hate them both, depending upon  the day of the week.

Yes I love March Madness, and you do too.

Today is bright and sunny but it’s also cold and windy. The sky is blue but the air is icy. The trees are trying to bloom but old man winter doesn’t want to go away, just not yet. And that’s sounds just like life. We live in a world full of contradictions and ambiguities and paradoxes and enigmas.  Every day and along the way, our task is to trust God’s process, for His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Our task is to trust that the mystery of Godliness will somehow, someway work out for our good.

Am I talking about life or about basketball?  Good question. In other words, sports and life are one in the same.

This time of year, college basketball teams that we don’t think will win are upsetting higher seeds. This time of year, powerhouse teams that we picked to go far in the tournament are heading home after an unexpected and hurtful first round defeat. It’s called March Madness, and for good reason.  Case in point, a school called Loyola Chicago just won in dramatic fashion. Never heard of ‘em? You have now.

Yesterday in a wild and fircely contested first round NCAA Tournament game, Donte Ingram hit a 3-pointer from the March Madness logo (on the court) just before the buzzer, lifting Loyola-Chicago over Miami 64-62 in a Thursday thriller to celebrate its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 33 years.

Ingram’s long shot from well above the key came after Lonnie Walker IV missed a free throw with a chance to give the Hurricanes a three-point lead with 9 seconds remaining.

The 11th-seeded Ramblers (29-5) matched the school record for wins from their 1963 national championship team in their first NCAA trip since losing to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the Sweet 16 in 1985. They advanced to face third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday.

Loyola was boosted by a pregame prayer from its team chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. She’s held that post for more than two decades and, sitting courtside in her wheelchair, got hugs from the Ramblers when it was over.

“I said we wanted to get that big W up there, and we did,” she said in a postgame TV interview.

The sixth-seeded Miami Hurricanes (22-10) led most of the second half in their third straight trip to the tournament, but couldn’t pull away in the final minutes and lost in the first round for the second straight year.

And so the lesson is clear. If you think you’ve got too much madness in your life, think again. Just look around and compare the weather report with what’s actually supposed to be happening outside. They don’t add up. And that should calm you down and pick you up and help you understand that what you’re going through is nothing compared to the madness all around you.

Every year, the games of the NCAA Tournament remind us of how blessed we really are. Just like the 64+ teams that make it into the tournament field, we are blessed to be invited to the big dance. And winning is icing on the cake.

So let’s be thankful for the little bit of madness that we have. Just think — you and I could have a whole lot more.