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Final Four Teams in NCAA Tournament Profiled; Sister Jean Interview on Loyola's Final Four Birth; Cancer Survivors Play Basketball to Raise Awareness. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 31, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:07] ALLIE LAFORCE, CNN ANCHOR: The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, home of this year's NCAA Final Four. The semifinals tipping off in just under four hours. And it's been a wild tournament. The excitement, though, continuing to build.

Welcome in, everybody. I'm Allie LaForce. I'm joined by my partner in crime here Steve Smith. Smithy, they are getting the court ready for big games tonight. This is "All Access at the Final Four," a CNN Bleacher Report Special.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good and gracious God, today we are gathered together to play our opponents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Loyola-Chicago is off to the Final Four.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winningest school record 32nd game sends the Michigan Wolverines to the Final Four.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest university in the world I always say, and we are proud to represent them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that is it. It is another super nova run to the Final Four for the Wildcats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kansas is still dancing, and heading to San Antonio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the best I have felt about a group, and you have no idea how much this means to so many people.


LAFORCE: Well, you could say that March Madness has certainly lived up to the reputation and the name this season, and Smithy, it is so great to have you with us because of the experience. You are a Michigan State grad. You have been to the Sweet 16. You've won an NBA championship. You have had all of the emotions, so watching this tournament, what was your favorite moment?

STEVE SMITH, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Well, so many moments, Allie, but I will say one stood out. It happened, a 16 beat number one. UMBC took down Virginia. That me had to be the storyline so far. Let's watch it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deep from the corner. He will take it. Three more. Sit back and watch history, folks. The NCAA tournament has been turned upside down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, Ramblers!


LAFORCE: And do we have the ultimate guest or what? UMBC head coach Ryan Odom joining us here on set. Coach, thank you for being with us.

RYAN ODOM, UMBC HEAD COACH: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

LAFORCE: What in the world has this whole ride been like for you, because I feel like it's probably one thing when you are in the moment, but now you've gotten a little bit of a time to reflect on it all.

ODOM: Yes, we are smiling from ear-to-ear to be honest and that is what makes me most happy is seeing these kids smile. They work so hard, and to have that moment and earn that victory, something special.

SMITH: Coach, for me, it was 21-21 at halftime. You have the chance to take down Virginia. What was the halftime speech like?

ODOM: Honestly I didn't have to say much, to be honest, because our guys felt like they were in the game at that point, and our guys felt like if we could get loose in the second half a little bit and get some easier baskets, that would be key. And certainly the way we came out of halftime really helped us.

LAFORCE: Coach, you set the stage for the upsets in the tournament, and now we have Loyola who went from unranked to playing in the Final Four. Give us some insights of what you've seen from them and how you think their experiences is either similar or different from what you went through?

ODOM: Yes, what a special season they've had, and it's not over yet. There's more ball to be played here, but Coach Moser and his staff, they have an experienced group. You can tell they believe in one another, they're totally connected on both sides of the ball. They space the court so they are really hard to guard. They get inside the defense and kick it out, and they're not afraid to make big shots. And you see them at the end of game not getting rattled at all has been fun, fun to see.

LAFORCE: Well, big shots come a long way this time of the year, and chemistry also a big part of the team's success. Loyola takes that to a whole new level. We take you inside of their journey in this NCAA confidential.


CLAYTON CUSTER, LOYOLA CHICAGO BASKETBALL PLAYER: What's up? Welcome to the crib. It is a little bit messy right now, but this is how it always is.


CUSTER: This is Ben Richardson from Overland Park, Kansas. He is a senior finance major here.

RICHARDSON: No, no. This is Clay Custer also from Overland Park, Kansas. The first time we met was first grade playing basketball and living in the same area. We just built a bond over all of the sports that we played together, all those trips, and we became really good friends.

CUSTER: They know not to put us with somebody else on the road. They know to keep us in the same room.

RICHARDSON: We definitely have a lot of differences.

[14:35:01] CUSTER: He never knows when we are supposed to be anywhere, so he will never listen to coach when he is like we have dinner at 5:30 or we have film at 9:00.

RICHARDSON: Maybe I am just testing him to see if he knows. I am just testing.

CUSTER: I think that is why we get along good, because I'll compliment some of his things, and he compliments some of my things.

RICHARDSON: Loyola is on their way to the second round, and they will meet Tennessee.

CUSTER: It definitely crossed my mind that if we don't somehow pull something here, it will be the last time I'll ever play with Ben. The fact that we are doing it together is special.


LAFORCE: The energy from watching that is just so incredible. They did go on to beat Tennessee and then Nevada and Kansas State. But an 11 seed, guys, has never won a Final Four, and now they have Michigan.

SMITH: Now they have Michigan. And coach, when you look at Michigan, they are well balanced. John Beilein's team offense, offense, in the past, but now in the future if you look at what they've done in the regular season defensively in the big ten tourney and the NCAA tournament, they are defending coach. How do you see this match playing out?

ODOM: Honestly I see a Hall of Fame coach in John Beilein. When you talk about his team's you're exactly right, you're usually talking about their offense. But I think the key to their run so far this season has definitely been their defense. Watching them against Florida State, they were light's out on that end of the court. And Loyola has been tremendous on both sides of the ball. So will they be able to get out in transition and find some easy baskets against Michigan and some of their switching I think will be a key.

LAFORCE: We are certainly hoping for a great game. It would be very uncharacteristic for this year's tournament if it wasn't a great game followed by what many are saying is the real championship when Villanova takes on Kansas. That's later tonight on TBS, and Coach Odom is going to stick around and talk some hoops with us a little more. We haven't got enough out of you yet, coach.

SMITH: Keep him here.

LAFORCE: We're keeping him here. Pregame coverage begins on TBS at the top of the hour with Ernie and the gang guiding you late into the night. We promise that will be entertaining.


ERNIE JOHNSON, SPORTSCASTER: I'm Ernie Johnson along with Clark, Kenny, and Charles.

CLARK KELLOGG, SPORTSCASTER: It is exactly what it looks like.

CHARLES BARKLEY, SPORTSCASTER: Are you going to talk the whole time? It is a very short halftime.

JOHNSON: It's just guys sitting around watching hoop.

Do you think we can get to the highlights?

KENNY SMITH, SPORTSCASTER: It is funny all of the time.

Upset alert. Upset alert.

KELLOGG: Your laugh muscles get a major workout.

JOHNSON: I think I know a guy who has probably done some 4:00 a.m. doughnuts.


JOHNSON: The amount of food consumed right there at the desk would probably surprise people. It is amazing that they have not taken a shot where Kenny is making a point at halftime and there is a piece of salmon on the shirt.

SMITH: Educate and entertain, that's what you're supposed to do.

BARKLEY: I'm Going to Always be prepared.

Auburn has to beat New Mexico State tomorrow.

JOHNSON: They are playing Clemson, dingus.

SMITH: He has this binder.

KELLOGG: Has anybody seen this binder?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chuck is not reading. Stop it.

BARKLEY: Nobody is going to outwork me.

SMITH: All that research is for nothing.

BARKLEY: Steve, I forget his name right now.

SMITH: Pronounce the school's correctly, how about that.

BARKLEY: Loyola has played -- Loyola.

JOHNSON: A lot of times he has got seven games wrong before the tournament has started.

SMITH: Did you get any right today?

KELLOGG: We are having a ball talking about ball.

BARKLEY: Come on, shock the world. Shock the world.

JOHNSON: If your boss told you that on Thursday and Friday of this week all he wants you to do is to watch the tournament, you would sign up for that job, and that is the job that we have.


LAFORCE: Up next on "All Access at the Final Four," what it takes to build a winning team. We talk to the coaches. And the sister act we can't get enough of.



LAFORCE: Our Coy Wire is with the tournament darling Sister Jean.


LAFORCE: Welcome back to "All Access at the Final Four." We are inside the Alamodome taking you in, and we have lights. That either means it is closing time for us and they're kicking us out or we're really close to game time. I'm going to go with the latter. Our set continues to expand. We have correspondent Andy Katz with us who had the really unique opportunity of sitting down with all four coaches today.

ANDY KATZ, NCAA.COM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so I had a great chance to talk to all four. And Michigan's John Beilein wanted to make sure that everyone knew that Loyola has a chance to win the national championship. This is not a fluke. Porter Moser, the head coach at Loyola certainly agreed. They didn't plan on it, but they certainly believe that they can win the national championship. Speaking of national championships, it was 10 years ago in this

building that Kansas beat Memphis in overtime, and Bill Self certainly fondly looks back on the day.


BILL SELF, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEAD COACH: Against Memphis we played well, we just couldn't make any shots. We were down nine and then we mount a great comeback. But Mario's shot is what everyone in our little world of Kansas basketball remembers.

KATZ: How fine of a line is it to getting to this point?

JAY WRIGHT, VILLANOVA HEAD COACH: The first time we got to the Final Four in 09 I thought, OK, once you do that, you are going to know how to do it. It will be easier. And what I really found out was once you do it, you realize everything that had to fall in place, and it is actually harder than you thought. But we respect anybody that gets to this point because we know you have to be really good and work really hard. You also have to have some breaks. You have to be humble about it when you get here.


KATZ: You've got a chance where Villanova could win their second championship in three seasons. Villanova is now one of the elite programs.

LAFORCE: It makes me wonder, when you think of Villanova's rise and the fact that they are considered to be one of the top dogs now up there with the Dukes and the Kansas and the Michigan States and Michigan is, coach, when you are building the program, what can you take away from their run and their success as you try to become the same level with your team?

ODOM: Well, first off they have a Hall of Fame coach in Jay Wright, and he knows exactly what he wants. His team is well balanced on both sides of the basketball, and when you have a leader like Brunson who is echoing everything that Jay Wright wants, the chance for success is right there.

SMITH: And I'm with coach. When you player like Jalen Brunson Jr., what he does in my opinion, he also like you just said echo everything a coach says, but he calm you down. You have those experiences where things are not going well. And it's great to have your point guard a leader and your best player, and that is what Jalen Brunson brings to the Villanova Wildcats.

LAFORCE: It was great covering Villanova because you got to talk to Jalen about his father who was a solid NBA player, and he's taught him so much. And I'll never forget the story Jalen told how in high school they won the state championship and Jalen played great. And his father's comment to him was like, congratulations, son. That is never going to work at the next level. And so he has that voice in the background that is always pushing him, and he has become that leader to his teammates. [14:45:00] SMITH: And he has experience. You have some guys that

have been on this big stage before, and he has been there in 2016, experience. And then on the Kansas side, you have the x-factor Malik Newman, hasn't been on this stage, obviously just transferred into Kansas. But he has been playing light's out. The last seven games have been phenomenal, 32 points versus Duke and all 13 points in overtime for the Jayhawks.

LAFORCE: And it's the next game that is going to matter the most.

ODOM: No question. He is shooting at a high clip right now. Every time he shoots it, you think it is going down. So if they can find him, good things will happen.

LAFORCE: Thank you, coach, it has been so much fun, and thank you so much, Andy, for your insight. Enjoy the weekend, guys.

KATZ: Thank you.

LAFORCE: Still ahead, she gave up losing for lent. Sister Jean shares her favorite tournament moment with us.

And if you are a super fan of one of the Final Four schools, check up Turner's team cast on TNT and TruTV. You'll get more of a local flavor, and even hear from our very own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Guess which team he is covering.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to give a shout out my Michigan Wolverines. Look, there's no doubt that I bleed blue. I am just surrounded by Michigan stuff wherever I go. And guess, this year I'm going to the game, semi-final game. I wish my boys in blue good luck, and at that championship game as well I will be there. Listen for the loud voice, that would be me. Good luck, guys. I'm with you. Go blue.


LAFORCE: Well Smithy, we started this tournament in Dayton for the first four, now we are down to the Final Four. We have seen upsets. We've talked to Coach Odom. His story is incredible.

[14:50:01] But no one has been more of a star than Sister Jean, Loyola's 98-year-old chaplain who has stolen our hearts.

SMITH: Yes, she has, Allie. She has her own bodyguards. And guess what, in San Antonio she has already had her own press conference.

LAFORCE: Coy Wire got a chance to catch up Sister Jean herself.


SISTER JEAN DOLORES SCHMIDT: I'm Sister Jean from Loyola University Chicago, and each one of us makes a difference in the world.

God bless us, go Ramblers, and amen.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You don't have to go traveling with the basketball team. You don't have to be getting up doing all these interviews for TV. Why is this important to you? Why do you do this?

SCHMIDT: I just have fun. I have a lot of fun. I wanted to go one step further myself by encouraging students to do that. I have to give the example that I do it, too.

WIRE: What is one of your favorite moments of the tournament?

SCHMIDT: I have two. That was the buzzer-maker in the first game that Donte Ingram made almost from the NBA line. And that shot was great. And the one that Clayton Custer made, too. And I said to him after the game, Clayton, I wasn't sure that ball was going into the basket because it kind of wobbled around. He said, Sister Jean, I wasn't sure it was going to make it either. And I said, well, I'm really glad you tried it.

WIRE: Sister Jean, what do you want your legacy to be?

SCHMIDT: That I really made some kind of an impact on their lives, because if a life makes a difference, then you have to make an impact. And I just want them to know that I love them. I'm happy. I'm a happy person. I have a lot of fun, and I'd like that to, even to the guys I say, enjoy what you're doing on the court. Then you're more relaxed.


SMITH: I think Coy has a crush on Sister Jean.

LAFORCE: I think Smithy has a crush on Sister Jean. What do you got over there?

SMITH: Sister Jean is a star. She's a star.

LAFORCE: Do you take that with you everywhere you go?

SMITH: I just borrowed it from the band.

LAFORCE: The band was so nice to lend us this cutout of Sister Jean. We promised to return, though, before tip, so we have to keep on our promise, but she's so quote. Socks, bobbleheads. I tried to buy a bobblehead of Sister Jean. The website I went to was sold out. And then I read that the bobblehead Hall of Fame is reporting that she is breaking records of the bobblehead sales.

SMITH: I just want an autograph, Allie. That's all I want is an autograph.

LAFORCE: We'll try to get you that tonight. I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty of her as the game kicks off.

Final Four predictions coming up, plus you'll meet the true hardwood heroes. Andy Scholes takes us to a game where survival has a different meaning.


LAFORCE: Welcome back to the Final Four in San Antonio. Steve Smith to my left, I'm Allie LaForce. And thanks for being with us and just talking hoops. Certainly when I look at the calendar year of sports, this one jumps out at me and I cannot wait for this moment.

SMITH: Allie, you are right. This is number one sport events in my heart, and I think March Madness, nothing rivals March Madness.

LAFORCE: And there's so much going on this weekend besides just the Final Four and the national championship game. And one of the greatest parts is the Hardwood Heroes game. It's cancer survivors, they're taking this court to raise money and awareness. Andy Scholes experienced the game here in the Alamodome earlier this weekend. Andy, fill us in.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Allie, it was so inspiring watching these INFINITI Hardwood Heroes the play here at the Alamodome. Some are cancer survivors, some are still battling a disease. And one player that really caught my eye was Deondre Logan. Growing up he was a basketball star with dreams of one day playing in the pros.


DEONDRE LOGAN, INFINITI HARDWOOD HERO: I went to college at Temple. And then after Temple I decided that I didn't want to play college anymore. I wanted to go play professionally with the Laredo Swarm, and then that is when I found out I had bone cancer.

I knew right off the bat that I couldn't play any longer because they said that the way that a tumor ate my bone. I wanted my leg cut off, but my mom and my doctor, they said I couldn't do that, so I ended up getting 15 screws and a plate all the way down my leg. Right when you get released you ring a bell in the hospital, everybody hears it, and it's saying that you beat cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three -- heroes!

LOGAN: I played in state finals and stuff like that, so I have been in some competitive game. This is just for a different cause. I am honestly just grateful to be here and blessed with this opportunity.


JIM CALHOUN, FORMER UCONN HEAD COACH: How much better representatives of coaches versus cancer can have of people who have lost limbs, lost part of their legs to cancer, and yet the most important thing, have fought back and said, hey, you're not going to beat me, and that is why they are here today.


BO RYAN, FORMER WISCONSIN HEAD COACH: For those of us who have seen it tear up, tear away families and communities and the devastation of cancer, to see the people who have fought it and are continuing to fight it, very inspirational.


SCHOLES: Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan recently lost his college roommate to cancer, and because of that, he and his wife decided to change their will and donate half a million to cancer research now as opposed to when they die. Tyan telling me he wants to help as many people as possible beat cancer like to tell about it, just like the players in the Hardwood Heroes game. Allie?

LAFORCE: Thank you so much, Andy. They are certainly inspirations to the all of us.

Here inside of the Alamodome, the preparations are under way. Smithy, here are the games. I'm putting you on the spot. Are you ready to give your pick?

SMITH: I'm ready. I'm ready, Allie. Are you ready?

LAFORCE: I think I'm ready. I think I know where you're going, but give it to me, drumroll.

SMITH: Here we go. First game, I have Michigan winning that one versus Loyola Chicago. And Villanova edging out Kansas. And then for the national championship, yes, I'm going there, I have Villanova by a couple of three-pointers to beat Michigan. That's my prediction.

LAFORCE: They do love that three-ball, but I think what was so great and why I agree with you on your pick of Nova is they showed in the sweet and the elite eight when the threes aren't falling, they can win in other ways. They can take you inside, their defense is great, they can rebound with the best of them. So they are that well-rounded team. It's going to be fun to watch.

SMITH: Jay Wright and the Wildcats national champs.

LAFORCE: Thanks you for joining us in San Antonio. Enjoy the game. See you next time.