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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 12, 2012

Catholic Colleges in March Madness 2012!

Take some time from telling your students to put away all their NCAA basketball tournament brackets to connect a lesson on Catholic lore, specifically around Catholic colleges in the United States. Yes, it’s time again for March Madness!

As always, start with the basics. Pass out your own blank copies of the brackets and have the students circle all of the Catholic colleges in the tournament. The total is up from eight in 2011 to twelve Catholic colleges in this year’s draw. While they’re at it have them note the power ratings (by seeding) of this year’s Catholic teams:

Catholic Power Ratings

1 (t). Georgetown (3)

1 (t). Marquette (3)

3 (t). Notre Dame (7)

3 (t). Gonzaga (7)

3 (t). St. Mary’s of California (7)

  1. Creighton (8)

  2. Saint Louis (9)

  3. Xavier (10)

9 (t). St. Bonaventure (14)

9 (t). Iona (14)

11 (t). Loyola of Maryland (15)

11 (t). Detroit Mercy (15)

Continuing with the basketball theme, have the students guess the ranking of these schools based on the number of NBA players it has produced.

  1. Notre Dame 50
  2. Georgetown 35
  3. Marquette 32
  4. Detroit Mercy 21
  5. Xavier 17
  6. St. Bonaventure 15
  7. Saint Louis 14
  8. Creighton 12
  9. Gonzaga 7
  10. St. Mary’s 6
  11. Iona 5
  12. Loyola MD 2

To complete the category, see if the sport’s fan types can name which schools produced the following players:

  • Adrian Dantley (Notre Dame)
  • Tyronee Hill (Xavier)
  • Dwyane Wade (Marquette)
  • Allen Iverson (Georgetown)
  • John Stockton (Gonzaga)
  • Bob Lanier (St. Bonaventure)

It’s not all sports: these Catholic colleges have several notable alumni in other areas. Set up a matching exercise to see if the students can guess where these famous people went to college:

  • Don McLean, “American Pie” composer (Iona)
  • John Boehner, U.S. House Majority leader (Xavier)
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan (Georgetown)
  • Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State (Notre Dame)
  • Bing Crosby, singer and actor (Gonzaga)

Bringing the discussion back closer to the subject area, don’t forget to have the students list in a table the founding religious orders of each of these colleges. Here they are (with the year founded):


Georgetown (1789)

Saint Louis (1818)

Xavier (1831)

Loyola MD (1852)

Detroit Mercy (1877)

Creighton (1878)

Marquette (1881)

Gonzaga (1887)

Christian Brothers

St. Mary’s of California (1863)

Iona (1940)

Holy Cross

Notre Dame (1842)


St. Bonaventure (1858)

Also, make sure to check the March categories from previous years on the left for other activities that you can connect to tournament time. Check back later for a list of women’s Catholic colleges in the NCAA tourney. And please share your own ideas for the NCAA tournament/Catholic lessons in the comments section below.

Finally, please pray for these Catholic colleges. As with other Catholic institutions, their identity is currently under threat by the federal government mandate to include morally objectionable birth control and abortion-causing drugs in their health care coverage. You may want to share this article by Francis Cardinal George of Chicago on this crucial topic.


1 Mike Amodei

March 13, 2012
There are 10 Catholic colleges in the women's tournament. The seedings: 1. Notre Dame (1) 2. St. John's (3) 3. (t) St. Bonaventure (5) 3. (t) Georgetown (5) 5. DePaul (7) 6. (t) Dayton (11) 6. (t) Gonzaga (11) 8. (t) Marist (13) 8. (t) Sacred Heart (14) 9. Creighton (14)

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