Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kneeling in the End Zone Presents God's Bracket 2011, Mens' Edition

Here is my annual look at the religiously affiliated schools in the NCAA Tournament.

Roman Catholic

  • Notre Dame (#2, Southwest)

  • St. John's (#6, Southeast)

  • Georgetown (#6, Southwest)

  • Xavier (#6, East)

  • Marquette (#11, East)

  • Gonzaga (#11, Southeast)

  • St. Peter's (#14, Southwest)

  • Villanova (#9, East)

As usual, the Archdiocese of Hoops is well represented. The Society of Jesus did especially well, placing five schools in this year's field. Notre Dame boasts a senior-led team and an impressive 14 wins over NCAA Tournament teams. A Final Four run by the Irish could lead to the canonization of Mike Brey as one of the game's elite coaches. Georgetown hasn't won since Chris Wright went down with a bad hand. But Wright will be back for the Tournament. St. John's isn't as fortunate. Leading rebounder D.J. Kennedy is out for the Johnnies' opening game against their Jesuit brothers from Gonzaga. The St. Peter's Peacocks will look to honor their namesake, the first Bishop of Rome, by upsetting a Purdue team that is playing without recently suspended guard Kelsey Barlow.

United Methodist

  • Duke (#1, West)

  • Syracuse (#3, East)

  • Wofford (#14, Southeast)

  • Boston University (#16, Southwest)

One United Methodist school in each region. It's a Wesleyan quadrilateral! Last season Duke achieved total sanctification (in the basketball sense of the phrase). The Blue Devils are capable of doing the same this year, especially if point guard Kyrie Irving is healthy. Syracuse fell from grace in January, but was justified by its play late in the season. Last year, Wofford earned its first NCAA Tournament berth. This year they're back. Boston U., home of the prestigious Boston University School of Theology, is back in the Big Dance after a nine-year absence. For what it's worth, both Wofford and Boston U. are the Terriers. I'm guessing there's a connection between United Methodism and small, English dogs. Perhaps the Wesleys had one.


  • Belmont (#13, Southeast)

  • Bucknell (#14, West)

Anyone who has been fully immersed in tournament coverage knows that Belmont is a popular pick to upset Wisconsin. A lot of analysts also have faith in Bucknell's ability to topple a Connecticut team that is likely worn down after winning five games in five days during the Big East Tournament.

Latter-Day Saints

  • Brigham Young (#3, West)

Staying faithful to its LDS principles cost BYU its starting power forward. But thanks to the talents of Jimmer Fredette, the most famous Mormon to come out of New York since Joseph Smith, the Cougars have a chance to advance to the second weekend for the first time in three decades.


  • Princeton (#13, East)

Neither Tulsa nor Davidson was among this year's elect, but Princeton is back in the dance for the first time in seven years.

Also: Vanderbilt (#5, Southwest) has historical ties to The United Methodist Church. The Commodores' opponent, Richmond (#12, Southwest), began as a Baptist institution. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) founded Butler (#8, Southeast) but maintain no formal ties to the school.

See Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports for an appendix with a complete list of religiously affiliated Division I schools.


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