Women sports fans have been out in full force during March Madness, college basketball’s annual, crazy, all-consuming single-elimination tournament that alternately breaks hearts and makes hoop dreams come true on a near-nightly basis. It all culminates on Saturday with the Final Four and then the national championship game on Monday in San Antonio, Texas (where I’d hoped to be cheering on my beloved Virginia Cavaliers—until they were historically knocked out of the tourney in the very first round. Never say die, Tony Bennett!). But if you’re among the many who don’t know your Wildcats from your Wolverines and who would, frankly, be way more interested in a bracket of the new Queer Eye contestants than all of this NCAA nonsense (or maybe you’re just going to a basketball party because you like wings): Fear not! Here are the main points to know about each of the 2018 Final Four teams, so as not to feel like a social pariah when basketball inevitably comes up this weekend.
The Ramblers are by far the most fun Final Four team to talk about because they were the least expected to make it this far. In a classic March Madness Cinderella story, Loyola-Chicago (a private Catholic university) was just an 11 seed in the region they were assigned to (out of 16 teams for that region). But now, the team that blazed through the regular season with a 32–5 record and defeated Miami in a buzzer beater in the first round of March Madness is in the Final Four for the first time since 1953. Nonfans (and depressed fans like me) can’t help but root for these underdogs as they take on Michigan next.
But if you contribute nothing else to looming conversations of the Final Four, just be prepared to know who Sister Jean is. Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt is the beloved 98-year-old chaplain for the Ramblers, a courtside staple in her wheelchair and striped school scarf, the proud inspiration of what has become a best-selling bobblehead, and, now, a national treasure.
What to say at the party: “March Madness, whatever— I love Sister Jean!”
Analysts say the Wolverines boast the best defense of any other team in the Final Four; it powered them through a 13-game winning streak. But Michigan’s less-consistent offense could mean Loyola-Chicago will continue its magical dance to the championship game. Michigan has spunk, though—judging by the billboards it erected in Ann Arbor proclaiming: “Sister Jean will soon know the difference between heaven and hell.”
How to talk smack to your friend who is a Michigan fan: “Hey, step off, Sister Jean.”
Consider the Wildcats a bit like the opposite of Loyola-Chicago, in that they were widely expected to make it to the Final Four. They entered the tournament as the top seed in their region, after trading places with Virginia (no, I’m not crying, you’re crying) for the number one rank in the country during much of the regular season. They are lights-out at shooting three-pointers, raging back after being down 10 points against West Virginia in the Elite 8 round. In 2016, Villanova won it all—the national championship—in a thrilling game against University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. And there’s a good chance they’ll do it again— which, of course, makes them less-than-thrilling fodder for your basketball party chatter.
What to say to the Villanova fans you cross paths with: “Meh, you guys just had your turn.”
The Jayhawks, under Hall of Fame coach Bill Self, is that annoyingly good, super-consistent college basketball powerhouse that is a force to be reckoned with year in and year out. Like Villanova, Kansas is a hallowed number one seed—led by point guard Devonte Graham, who is one of the best players in the country, and freshman Malik Newman, who is on fire. Also like Villanova, Kansas has won the title before—in 2008. Oddsmakers give the edge to Villanova in their Final Four game, but Kansas has been consistently underrated this year and has continued to outplay expectations. Can they keep it up?
What to say between bites of your wings: “Villanova–Kansas? Wow, great game!”