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It’s become an annual tradition- each year, when the NCAA selection committee makes its announcements, we make our Quixotic bracket picks based on the following criteria:
1. Schools with religious origins beat state schools
2. Christian schools (belief in the Trinity is a prerequisite) beat other religious schools
3. Catholic schools beat schools of other Christian affiliation
4. When Catholic schools face off against one another, we affirm the most religiously solid contender.
As always, it’s ultimately based upon our mood at the time. This year, it was easier than most. But here are some of the key matchups:
WEST ROUND 3: XAVIER vs BAYLOR
Baylor, though a school with strong Baptist tendencies, has always left the door open to Catholic faculty because of their closet sympathies for the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. However, since I’ve burned Xavier to the ground in recent years in this bracket, due to their Jesus Seminar ties (which are now mostly gone) and their open discouragement of me entering the Church when I approached their campus chapel to enter RCIA, I’m burying the hatchet in the hopes their theology department’s previous professors will unbury the dead Jesus that they formerly claimed was only actually resurrected in the hearts, minds and emotions of his apostles. Consider it an olive branch. Don’t make me into a liar on this. Xavier 58, Baylor 47.
SOUTH ROUND 3: UTAH vs GEORGETOWN
Pope Francis believes in mercy, so I’ll extend it myself. Even though the Hoyas have covered up crucifixes during presidential visits, taken hardcore advantage of the good will of Catholic Relief Services, and generally shown themselves to be antagonistic to the faith of their founders, they at least still pretend to believe in the Trinity. Which is more than the Mormons of Utah can attest. Plus, I rely on CARA quite a bit for on-air cultural analysis. Georgetown in a squeaker.
SOUTH ROUND 3: DUKE vs ST JOHN’S
I love St. John. He is, after all, the Apostle Whom Jesus Loved, so why shouldn’t I? I’m also named after him. And I absolutely despise Duke. But I am moved to tears every time I read this piece from Stanley Hauerwas of Duke’s faculty about Reformation Sunday. Call me a softie. Duke wins. But it’s because the referees turned a blind eye.
SWEET 16: SMU vs GONZAGA
One of my favorite quotes of all time remains this one, by the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “An atheist is a man who watches a Notre Dame – Southern Methodist University game and doesn’t care who wins.” SMU never makes it to Notre Dame.
SWEET 16: DUKE vs GEORGETOWN
Georgetown, this is your call to action. The only reason I’m picking you this time is because you’re playing against a team that has SATAN AS ITS MASCOT. That’s how much work you have to do.
ELITE 8: VILLANOVA vs PROVIDENCE:
How can I possibly go against the Dominicans? Do you realize how many emails I would get? Sorry, Villanova. I promise it’s not personal.
ELITE 8: GONZAGA vs GEORGETOWN
Sorry, Georgetown. You only get so many mulligans. Fr. Robert Spitzer, the unbelievably brilliant former head of Zag nation, could absolutely intellectually demolish the nonsense that goes on at your campus on a daily basis. The spirit of mercy, re-invigorated by Pope Francis, is no doubt the only force besides the Holy Spirit that restrains him from reminding them what a real Jesuit campus is supposed to look like.
FINAL FOUR: XAVIER vs NOTRE DAME:
Notre Dame’s late president, Fr. Hesburg, who passed so very recently, is, no doubt, a powerful intercessor for them in the heavens. That, or he is agonizing for Our Lady’s University in purgatory as their coach will undoubtedly agonize over when to spend a time out. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
FINAL FOUR: PROVIDENCE vs GONZAGA
This is, by far, the toughest pick for me this year. This time around, it comes down to mascots. Gonzaga: A bulldog. Providence: A friar. Given my soft spot for orders whose habits still serve as silent public witness to the world, I have to go with Providence. I am going to lose so much money on this tournament.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP: NOTRE DAME vs PROVIDENCE
This one is all about the faithful departed, and my personal interests. The great Professor Charles Rice of Notre Dame recently passed to his eternal reward. I think we all know who he’s cheering for. And despite some seriously regrettable honorary decisions by Notre Dame over the past decade, they recently made an incredibly praiseworthy one by announcing Aaron Neville as this year’s recipient of the Laetare Medal. To borrow from the words of that Multiple-Grammy-Winning-Musical-Legend: “I don’t know much… but I know NOTRE DAME IS GOING TO WIN IT ALL.
Also, Our Lady versus Providence? Glad I don’t have to write the headline for that one…
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