News & Commentary

7 Catholic schools dancing in this year’s March Madness

(OSV News) — The 2024 Men’s Division I NCAA Tournament gets underway March 19 with the “First Four” play-in games, and seven Catholic schools will be playing at least once in the single-elimination Big Dance.

Duquesne University, located in downtown Pittsburgh, was founded by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and is the only Spiritan institution of higher education in the U.S. This is the sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament for the Duquesne Dukes, but their first since 1977, when they lost to the Virginia Military Institute out of Lexington, Virginia, in the first round. This year, Duquesne, the No. 11 seed in the Eastern region, is slated to meet the sixth-seeded BYU Cougars, representing Brigham Young University, in Omaha, Nebraska, in the first round on March 21 at 12:40 p.m. EDT. According to its website, Duquesne offers a “profound concern for moral and spiritual values” and “service to the Church, the community, the nation, and the world” as two ways that it seeks to serve its students.

The Marianist University of Dayton, a No. 7 seed in the Western region, will square up against the No. 10 seed University of Nevada March 21 at 4:30 p.m. EDT in Salt Lake City. Located in Dayton, Ohio, the Dayton Flyers, who according to its website are “committed to a Catholic vision of learning and scholarship,” are no stranger to NCAA action. This year will be their 19th tournament appearance, and they most recently reached the Elite Eight in 2014. Their 2024 appearance marks the first time that the University of Dayton has danced since 2017, when they lost in the first round to Wichita State.

Making program history, St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, will enter the NCAA tournament this year for the third year in a row when the fifth-seeded college in the Western region plays No. 12 seed Grand Canyon March 22 at 10:05 p.m. EDT in Spokane, Washington. The mission of St. Mary’s includes fostering and affirming “the Christian understanding of the human person which animates the educational mission of the Catholic Church.” The Gaels haven’t made it past the first two rounds of play since 2010, when they lost to Baylor University in the Sweet Sixteen.

NCAA tournament champions in 1977, Marquette University is the Southern region’s No. 2 seed. The Golden Eagles, who will be dancing this year for the 36th time, will play the No. 15 seed Western Kentucky University March 22 at 2 p.m. EDT in Indianapolis. Established in 1881, Marquette is a Jesuit university located in Milwaukee. It boasts more than 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. “As a Catholic university,” the website says, “we are committed to the unfettered pursuit of truth under the mutually illuminating powers of human intelligence and Christian faith.”

No stranger to March Madness, Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane has been selected to compete in the NCAA tournament every year since 1999. They have made the Sweet Sixteen for the last consecutive eight years. Playing in the Midwestern region, the fifth-seed Bulldogs will face the No. 12 seed McNeese State March 21 in Salt Lake City at 7:25 p.m. EDT. “The Gonzaga educational experience,” the website notes, “prepares students to be wholehearted leaders who serve the common good and give glory to God.”

Also in the Midwestern region, No. 3 seed Creighton University in Omaha will go up against 14-seed Akron March 21 at 1:30 p.m. EDT in Pittsburgh. A small, private Jesuit University, Creighton’s March Madness appearance will be its 25th since its founding in 1878. “As Catholic,” its website says, “Creighton is dedicated to the pursuit of truth in all its forms and is guided by the living tradition of the Catholic Church.”

The third Catholic institution in the Midwestern region, No. 15 seed St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey, will meet No. 2 seed Tennessee March 21 at 9:20 p.m. EDT in Charlotte, North Carolina. In their other four appearances in the NCAA tournament, St. Peter’s did not advance past the first round — with the notable exception of 2022, when they had a surprise run to the Elite Eight, where they finally lost to North Carolina.

By OSV News