“An atheist is a guy who watches a Notre Dame-SMU football game and doesn’t care who wins.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower
For the past decade or so, I’ve been posting online my annual NCAA bracket picks, which I decide upon based on religious criteria. The sites on which I’ve done so have pretty much all gone defunct over the years, so I’m hoping that posting here won’t signal the death of The Fairyland Business Journal.
As in previous years, here are the loose criteria:
1. In games between religious schools and nonreligious schools, the religious school is picked.
2. In games between Christian schools and schools with other religious affiliations, the Christian school is picked.
3. In games between Catholic schools and protestant schools, the Catholic school is picked.
4. In games between Catholic schools, the one with the highest degree of fidelity to the Magisterium is picked.
5. Criteria 1-4 may be abandoned if a secular school boasts notable alumni, has personal significance to the author, or has some set of arbitrary qualities that apply to matters of religion.
Of course, when it comes down to it, I usually follow these criteria about as closely as some of these schools follow the Magisterium, so there’s that. Here are just a few of my predictions for some of the key matchups:
EAST ROUND 1: SMU vs. Providence
So Southern Methodist University is back in the tournament after being banned for NCAA violations? Providence is the home of a number of solid Dominicans, who are historically known for being able to spot a cheater (cough, cough, INQUISITION). And while in the Inquisition, it was the secular authorities who meted out the harshest punishments while the religious authorities mostly judged guilt or innocence, the thumping that the Friars will give the Mustangs on the court will make them long for the mercy of the NCAA rules committee.
WEST ROUND 1: Notre Dame vs. Princeton
Easy, Mr. Vice President! It’s just a blog post…
In the past, Notre Dame’s picks of commencement speakers have determined where they fall in my bracket. This year, they’ve picked fallen-away Catholic Vice President Mike Pence. Put that against Princeton, whose perennial Catholic intellectual powerhouse Prof. Robert George has had more than a few things to say about the moral veracity of the various positions and personalities of the administration of which Pence is a part, I’m going with Princeton here. Pence, you’re not a bad person, your formation is just incomplete. And if there’s one thing that’ll do you in on the hardwood, it’s lack of fundamentals.
SOUTH ROUND 2: Dayton vs Northern Kentucky
This is a tough one, as yours truly has taken a few classes at Dayton, and have been to its impressive Marian library, which boasts the largest collection of its kind outside of the Vatican. Meanwhile, the NKU alumnus who founded their student pro-life group married a Habsbourg and is now a princess of some kind in Belgium, perpetuating their Catholic monarchical line so that it can come back into power once Europe collapses under the weight of its own religious confusion. NKU wins!
EAST ROUND 2: Duke vs Marquette
Many’s the battle for Catholic identity that’s been waged on the campus of Marquette- from “bathroom law” controversies, to the censure of a professor for defending traditional marriage. Meanwhile, a quick glance at Duke Divinity’s course offerings shows a class on “Italy in the Life of the Church.” Sorry, Golden Eagles.
WEST ROUND 2: Xavier vs. Florida State
Visit FSU’s Catholic campus ministry, and you’ll find plenty of men and women religious sporting habits. Visit Xavier’s theology department, and you’ll find a Jesuit or two sporting the Tommy Bahama Spring collection. ‘Noles chop their way through the Musketeers.
EAST ROUND 3: Duke vs Providence
Providence’s mascot is a Dominican Friar. Duke’s mascot is literally The Devil. I think we know where this one is going. Providence, and it’s not even a close one.
WEST ROUND 3: Gonzaga vs. Princeton
Pic of Bishop Barres dunking courtesy of Long Island’s Newsday.
In previous years, Gonzaga has ridden pretty high in my brackets because of its connection to the great Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. However, it recently came to my attention that the recently appointed Bishop of Rockville Centre, John Barres, was actually a point guard for Princeton’s JV team during his college years. His Tigers come out on top in this one. (To see Bishop Barres’ recent appearance on The Journey Home, click here.)
WEST ROUND 3: Florida State vs. St. Mary
In watching Florida State the other day, I was struck by two things: one, that one of their top scorers is named Dwayne Bacon. I can’t vote against bacon, even if they play this game on a Friday in Lent. Also, they have a center whose first name is, no joke, Christ. Christ Koumadje. I think he pronounces it differently, but seriously, Christ is the center? Gotta go with Florida State here.
SOUTH ROUND 4: Seton Hall vs. Northern Kentucky
I love Northern Kentucky. They’re spunky, and a great upstart pick for this bracket. But for some reason, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has been following me around a lot lately. I feel like I have a thousand connections to her- not the least of which is that we’ve adopted her as one of our unofficial patrons of women converts at The Coming Home Network. I’m picking her Pirates to win.
EAST ROUND 4: Providence vs. Villanova
Dominicans vs. Augustinians? The Dominicans gave us St. Thomas Aquinas. The Augustinians gave us Martin Luther. No repeat for ‘Nova this time around.
WEST ROUND 4: Princeton vs. Florida State
Here’s where this one gets tough- I know that Catholic News Agency’s Adelaide Mena, a Princeton alum and die-hard fan, and EWTN Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Szeltner, a FSU alum and die-hard fan, work out of the same DC offices just up the road from me, and I’m not interested in the kind of conversation that would make me decide who I prefer to make angry here. So I flipped a coin, and Princeton won.
Providence vs. Princeton
Princeton has some Thomists on staff. But Providence has more. So Providence goes to the championship.
Seton Hall vs Creighton
This is the first we’ve spoken of Creighton so far in this post. They’ve been in the Midwest region, and there haven’t been many battles of religious importance there. As a matter of fact, Seton is the first historically religious school I have Creighton meeting in my bracket. I’m giving this to Creighton, mostly because they’ve developed a lot of credibility beating all those secular programs to get here.
CHAMPIONSHIP: Creighton vs. Providence
Another tough one here. The Jesuit-affiliated Creighton, or the Dominican-affiliated Providence? When all is said and done, it comes down to this: when the going gets tough in life, when the chips are down, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, do you say to yourself, “I rely on Creighton?” No, you rely on Providence. That’s all you’ve got. Congratulations, Friars!
Got your own picks, or care to take issue with any of mine? Comments are open!
****UPDATE: The Providence Friars were eliminated on Wednesday night by the USC Trojans in a First Four play-in game. My bracket was busted this year before the field of 64 even began play. I do not recommend putting money on my method.