Is God in your bracket?

AJ GravesYou know you're a journalist who cares about religion when you based your NCAA Tournament Bracket picks on the religion of the school. I tend to use some combination of my head and my heart, which usually leads to utter disaster and ruin. A more successful way I've observed is to pick teams based on a hypothetical match-up between the two schools mascots. For those watching the games this weekend or just participating in an office pool, consider the following article at the washingtonpost.com Newsweek On Faith Web site an interesting discussion piece. Kathy Orton, who writes articles on how religion plays out in the sporting world, discusses briefly how people will often root for schools with which they are associated. I would agree that this tends to be true. I've personally observed Catholics root for Catholic schools in the tournament merely because they are Catholics.

Orton raises the excellent point that many of these schools, particularly the Catholic ones, are playing on holy days:

It's interesting to note that several of these schools will be playing on holy days: Good Friday and Easter Sunday. At places such as Georgetown and Notre Dame, fans were mixed about whether their teams should play on these days. In 2003, the NCAA inadvertently scheduled BYU in the Friday-Sunday slot for the round of eight, forgetting that LDS Church policy prohibits games on Sundays. BYU was eliminated before it became an issue.

I wonder if there are any teams out there in Division I that would have refused to play on Easter. The NCAA must accommodate that, and according to Wheaton College graduate Jason Bailey, there are about seven Division III teams that have a no-Sunday exemption including Wheaton. Anyone know of any in this year's Division I tournament?

Orton goes on to compile a list of schools to make it "easier for Methodists to root for Methodists and Presbyterians to cheer for Presbyterians." I'll note that now that I know Davidson College is Presbyterian doesn't make me any less bitter about the fact I picked Gonzaga to win that game.

Several of the comments attached to the story point out that the Jesuit schools could have been broken out into a separate category for the purposes of school loyalty. According to one comment, there are five: Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, Xavier, and St. Joseph's University. If any of the schools listed have a religious origin, let us know. I was pleasantly surprised that the Christian roots of Butler University (my alma mater) were mentioned.

Checkout the list on your own, and let us know if game commentators mention any of the religious affiliations during the games. For a more humorous version (and more helpful), checkout ESPN.com's Mary Buckheit's analysis on how to pick your bracket based on religious creed. Here is my favorite set of tips (thanks to Jason for the tip on this story):

Toughest region to pick: West. Arizona vs. West Virginia is a toss-up, as is Mormons vs. Aggies. Jesuits over public school Dawgs is a roll of the dice.

Easiest pick (single game): Baylor (the world's largest Baptist university) over Purdue (looks like a locomotive on paper but is really just an undercover Indiana state school). Fess up, Boilermakers.

Picking Baylor doesn't look like such a smart move, but it's understandable if you don't know what the Purdue locomotive is all about this year.

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