Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 14, 2011

Catholic Colleges in the NCAA Tournament 2011

The buzz among your teens this week likely centers around the annual NCAA basketball tournament, i.e. "March Madness." Don't let the excitement slip away without capturing some of it for your theology class! There are a number of fun things that connect religion, Catholic identity, and basketball that you can do with your students.

Start with the basics. Pass out a printable tournament bracket sheet and have the students circle all the Catholic colleges in the field of 68 (up four from previous years). While they're at it, have the do the annual ratings of Catholic college teams based on the tournament seedings. Here's how it shakes out this year.

Catholic College Ratings 1. Notre Dame (2)
2(t). Xavier (6)
2(t). Georgetown (6)
2(t). St. John's (6)
5. Villanova (9)
6. Marquette (11)
Gonzaga (8)
8. St. Peter's (14)

Continue by having the students identify each of the Catholic colleges in the tournament with their locations by city and state:
Notre Dame (Notre Dame (South Bend), IN)
Xavier (Cincinnati, OH)
Georgetown (Washington, DC)
St. John's (Queens, NY)
Villanova (Villanova (Radnor), PA)
Marquette (Milwaukee, WI)
Gonzaga (Spokane, WA)
St. Peter's (Jersey City, NJ)

Next, have them identify the founding religious community of each college:
Jesuit (Xavier, Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, St. Peter's)
Holy Cross (Notre Dame)
Vincentian (St. John's)
Augustinian (Villanova)

Research Work: Have the students research each team and determine which roster has the most players named after saints and/or biblical characters.

Interactive: Develop some quiz questions based on your current lesson plan for the week. Divide the class into two teams for a head-to-head competition. In the spirit of the week, bring in a nerf ball and have the teams compete for bonus points by being able to sink the ball into a strategically placed trash can.

Report: There are many Catholics who coach college basketball. Ask the students to report on three famous Catholic coaches from the past: Lou Carnesecca (St. John's), Al McGuire (Marquette), and Ray Meyer (DePaul).

Feel free to add some NCAA March Madness ideas for your religion classroom in the comments section below!


1 William O'Leary

March 14, 2011
This is a great way to take what is going on around them and bring it into the classroom!

2 Mike Amodei

March 14, 2011
We will add Catholic colleges in the women's bracket after they are announced tonight . . . And remember, GO IRISH!

3 Mike Amodei

March 15, 2011
Here are the ratings of the Catholic colleges in the Women's Bracket. Apply to the same activities above! 1(t). Notre Dame (2) (Holy Cross) 1(t). Xavier (2) (Jesuit) 3. DePaul (3) (Vincentian) 4. Georgetown (5) (Jesuit) 5. Marquette (8) (Jesuit) 6. St. John's (9) (Vincentian) 7(t). Dayton (11) (Marianist) 7(t). Gonzaga (11) (Jesuit) 9. St. Francis, PA. (13) (Franciscan)

4 James E. Callahan III

March 22, 2011
Thank you for summarizing the Catholic Schools in the NCAA. It is much appreciated!

5 Jeff Chardos

March 23, 2011
I also used this activity to have my juniors research the schools (tuition, enrollment numbers, admission requirements, majors, etc.). It was a good way to introduce them to some Catholic colleges they may not have been considering. Thanks for a wondeful idea!

Leave a Comment

High School eNewsletter
Receive bi-weekly lessons, links, tips and more in our Email Newsletter

Resources Archive