Ailene Voisin

How a young girl and a 98-year-old nun became stars of the men's NCAA Tournament

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, left, greets the Loyola-Chicago basketball team as they walk off the court after their win over Miami in a first-round game at the NCAA Tournament in Dallas on March 15.
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, left, greets the Loyola-Chicago basketball team as they walk off the court after their win over Miami in a first-round game at the NCAA Tournament in Dallas on March 15. AP

The men’s NCAA Tournament is when stars are born, right? Well, not only has this been an insanely unpredictable tournament, two of the participants receiving a significant amount of TV time are female, separated in age by eight decades, and impassioned fans of two teams that will meet in the Sweet Sixteen Thursday in Atlanta.

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is the 98-year-old devotee of Loyola Chicago, who in recent days, burst onto the TV and Twitter scene and became an international (her words) celebrity. Mariah Musselman is 8-years-old, a big booster of her father Eric Musselman and his Nevada Wolf Pack, and a rising star in her own right.

If you watched either team play over the weekend, you know who we are talking about.

You couldn’t miss them. Sister Jean in her wheelchair, cheering on her Ramblers. Mariah bouncing around in the stands, and between games against Texas and Cincinnati, playing the role of reporter and interviewing her father in a hilarious segment that went viral.

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So leave it to CBS to spot talent. Eric Musselman received a call from studio analyst Seth Davis on Monday, asking if the network could arrange for Mariah to interview Sister Jean before Thursday’s matchup.

“When I told Mariah she could interview Sister Jean, she asked, ‘Who is Sister Jean?’ ” related Danyelle Musselman, a former Fox Sports and ESPN anchor. “I said she was a nun with (Loyola Chicago). Mariah gave me a look. She goes to a Catholic school, but they don’t have nuns. She asked me, ‘What is a nun?’ She knows what a priest is, because they have Mass. So I told her a nun is the female version of a priest, and that seemed to satisfy her.”

Because her daughter has missed so much school due to the conference and NCAA tournaments, Danyelle, who worked as a sideline reporter for a handful of NBA games this season, considered leaving her with friends in Reno. But father and daughter were adamant. They were all in.

“Eric told me, ‘she has to come to Atlanta. Twitter is waiting!’ ” Danyelle added, laughing. “Everybody thinks Mariah gets her personality from me, but she is much more like her father. They both love the attention. They love speaking in front of large crowds. She loves acting, being in plays. And I guess this isn’t stopping. TBS wants Eric and Mariah to go to the Final Four, to film some guest segment. I’m not sure what it’s about, but they’ll love that, too.”

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