Sister Jean's mood has gotten brighter and brighter as the month of March has progressed, and the Loyola Chicago Ramblers kept that alive for their 98-year-old team chaplain in the Elite Eight on Saturday. The Ramblers advanced to their first Final Four since 1963 with a 78-62 win over the ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats. Ben Richardson led the way with a career-high 23 points for the Ramblers, who shot 57 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from three-point range. As an 11-seed, the Ramblers tie as the lowest seed ever to reach the Final Four, joining LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006, and VCU in 2011. All three of those teams lost in the tournament semifinals. Before this stunning run, the Ramblers hadn't made the tournament since 1985, but they pulled off a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament victory to begin their eventful month of March. They led by as many as 23 on Saturday, and did so by holding the Wildcats to just 35 percent shooting. Marques Towns and Donte Ingram also chipped in on the offensive end for the Ramblers with 13 and 12 points respectively, The win made the Cinderella story of the tournament the first team to clinch their spot in the Final Four, which will take place at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas next weekend.
Michigan Holds Off Florida State in Elite Eight
The Ramblers did find out who they'd be matched up with in San Antonio next weekend, as the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines held off the ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles, 58-54, in Los Angeles on Saturday. Charles Matthews had 17 points for the Wolverines, who outlasted the Seminoles in the defensive-minded battle. The Wolverines were able to hold Florida State without a point for several runs of at least five minutes in the second half, as they now advance to their first Final Four since 2013, when they lost in the National Championship game to the Louisville Cardinals, who have since had that title stripped from them. Some may want to give Michigan the 2013 title, but the Wolverines have their eyes set on this year's championship, as they have now won 13 straight games, dating back to the regular season. Moe Wagner stepped up after a slow first half and finished with 12 points in the win for Michigan, who shot an uncharacteristic 4-of-22 from three-point range. They did lead by as many as 10 on the night, but Florida State made it interesting late, before some questionable strategy haunted them in their comeback attempt. After getting as close as three with under two minutes left, the Seminoles seem to have started to intentionally foul early, and then they refused to foul with 11 seconds left and down four. But don't bring this up to head coach Leonard Hamilton, who disregarded any questions about that strategy. Either way, the Wolverines now move on to battle the Cinderella story of Loyola Chicago in the Final Four at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Blues Stay Hot, Stop Jackets' Streak at 10
The St. Louis Blues are fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference after a slow middle of the season, and they had a major road test on Saturday night. Although, they passed that test by snapping the Columbus Blue Jackets' 10-game win streak with a 2-1 victory at Nationwide Arena. Jake Allen made 33 saves, while Alexander Steen scored on the first shot of the game, giving the Blues a quick start, which they never looked back from. Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for the Blues, who have won five in a row, and now sit one point behind the Colorado Avalanche and two behind the Minnesota Wild with 89 points in the standings. The Avalanche took out the Las Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout and the Wild upset the Nashville Predators on Saturday to keep pace with the streaking Blues. Allen led the way for St. Louis and earned his 26th win of the season and seventh in the past eight games. He also leads the league with 10 shutouts on the road, and nearly had number 11, but Cam Atkinson beat him in the third period to end that hope. Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves in the loss for the Blue Jackets, who still hold the third divisional spot in the Metropolitan Division. They will look to get back on track on Tuesday night when they hit the road to battle Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. The Blues look to continue their fight to the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they play host to the San Jose Sharks that same night.