Baptist Renaissance NCAA Tournament Picks (by Bart Barber)

Bart blogs at Praisegod Barebones (at least when the spirit moves him). He also was gracious to let me publish his prognostications. Fortunately for him, he did not say, “Thus saith the Lord,” so no Old Testament punishments are called for. 

March Madness is upon us once again, when everyone from shipping managers to laboratory technicians to car salesman to high school custodians become self-proclaimed doctors of bracketology. Pastors are right in there among them, but I have an admission to make: I know a lot less than the average man does about college basketball…about any sort of athletics, really. Nevertheless, I enjoy the basketball tournament better than any athletic event in existence—I pretty faithfully watch it on TV—and each year I like to fill out a NCAA March Madness tournament bracket based upon my passion for Baptist History. It entertains me, it makes watching the tournament even more interesting, and just maybe it gives you a chance to learn a little more about some of the history of the schools involved and the heritage of Christian education (good and bad!) in our nation.

North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty: North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University is a land-grant public university. In their play-in game this year they face Liberty University. Liberty is, of course, a private university founded by a Baptist that began with and retains its Baptist Identity. That’s the gold standard in the Baptist Identity picks. Of course, they did spend a good bit of time this year declaring that they have no official position on whether Mormonism is a cult. If they should keep up that kind of ridiculousness we might have to stop referring to them as an orthodox Baptist school, but I think we have reason to hope that they will return to doctrinal truth now that it doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable about their politics. Liberty gets the win.
Middle Tennessee State University vs. St. Mary’s College: Middle Tennessee State University earns a strong rating among public institutions. After all, it is located in Murfreesboro, TN, which is awfully close to Nashville. And, as every Southern Baptist should know, Nashville is to us what Salt Lake City is to the Mormons…what Rome is to the Catholics. And yet, St. Mary’s College is a private Catholic institution, a school affiliated with the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle founded the Brothers for the purpose of Christian education. Yes, they’re Roman Catholic rather than Baptist, but apart from extenuating circumstances, religious private schools trump public teacher colleges. The pick goes to St. Mary’s.
Boise State University vs. La Salle University: We’re involved in church planting in Montana, and I confess that I love the Rocky Mountain states. Nevertheless, in this third play-in game, we once again see a public state university pitted against a Catholic school. Indeed, La Salle, like St. Mary’s, is a school affiliated with the same Brothers of the Christian Schools institution founded by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. La Salle wins.
Long Island University—Brooklyn vs. James Madison University: Both of these are public universities. In the details of the schools there’s hardly enough difference to make a pick, but the name of James Madison is enough to tip the scales. James Madison drafted the First Amendment, including it’s protection of religious liberty in our nation. He did so in a close partnership with Virginia Baptist leader John Leland. James Madison is the winner of this last play-in game.
Midwest Region
Louisville vs. Liberty: Louisville, of course, is the home town of Southern Baptist Theological seminary, which would put it in a strong position against any public institution. Also, Louisville was, at its founding, a religious institution before the Commonwealth of Kentucky came into possession of it. These factors improve Louisville’s lot. But against Liberty? Not a chance! Liberty wins.
Colorado St. vs. Missouri: This is a tough one. Missouri and Colorado St. are both public schools. Missouri is a state with a large population of Evangelicals, many of whom are Baptists. Colorado has a smaller population of Baptists, but the state is the home of several key Evangelical institutions (think Focus on the Family). In the end, Missouri’s Evangelical population is more Baptist and less generically Evangelical. I’m going with Mizzou.
Oklahoma St. vs. Oregon: One of our pastors has a daughter going to Oklahoma State. I’ve known good friends who served in the Stillwater area. Oklahoma is a powerful Southern Baptist state. And yet, the Oregon’s athletic players are the “Ducks.” Ducks have been a symbol of Baptists at least since the 1700s, when George Whitefield, famously bemoaned, “All my chicks have become ducks!” Ducks love water. Baptists love water. Ducks win.
Saint Louis vs. New Mexico State: Saint Louis University is a Jesuit (Catholic) university. The new Pope is a Jesuit. New Mexico State University is a public university in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Of course, there are two spiritual connections that we could make with Las Cruces, New Mexico, the home of NMSU. First, the name “Las Cruces” means “the crosses.” perhaps a reference to grave markers in the area, which were numerous because of conflict with the Apaches. Second, a visit to Las Cruces makes a person 47.6% more likely to believe in Hell. Nevertheless, I’m going with the Jesuits at Saint Louis.
University of Memphis vs. St. Mary’s College: Although Memphis is the home of the Baptist Faith & Message and the home of the Cooperative program (since the 1925 SBC Annual Meeting took place there), The University of Memphis is a public institution. For that reason, I’m picking St. Mary’s.
Michigan State University vs. Valparaiso University: Michigan State, of course, is a public university. Valparaiso has an interesting history. The Methodists founded Valpo back in 1859, but they couldn’t make a go of it. After a roller-coaster history of more than 60 years, Valparaiso was sold by the Methodists to the Lutherans, who retain ownership today. Go Crusaders!
Creighton University vs. University of Cincinnati: Creighton is another Jesuit school (did Ignatius Loyola invent the pick-and-roll or something?!) The University of Cincinnati is a public school. Yes, it is true that Baptists can look with a little admiration upon the life of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and the resistance to dictatorial oppression that he represents, but I’m going with Creighton.
Duke University vs. State University of New York—Albany: What is Duke’s relationship with the United Methodist Church? If you like Methodism, have a lot of money, and think you might make a donation, they’d like you to know that they have a strong historical connection with Methodism. If you don’t like Methodism, have a lot of money, and think you might make a donation, they’d like you to know that they’ve always been independent of the United Methodist Church. If you are a prospective student, they’d like to introduce you to Karen Owen and the Rugby team. Duke is hardly anything that private Christian schools should hold up as a representative model. But, SUNY Albany is in no position to challenge them. I’ll go with Duke.
West Region
Gonzaga University vs. Southern University A&M: Southern University A&M was chartered by the State of Louisiana as a traditionally-black institution of higher learning. Gonzaga University is a Catholic institution in Spokane, Washington. It’s Gonzaga.
University of Pittsburgh vs. Wichita State University: The University of Pittsburgh was founded by the State of Pennsylvania in a log college back when Pittsburgh could legitimately be considered part of the “frontier.” Wichita State University is a public university in Kansas. But things have not always been thus. WSU was founded as Fairmount College, a Congregationalist institution of higher learning. They later stepped away from their sectarian beginnings, but their erstwhile religious affiliation gives them a leg-up. I’m picking Wichita State University.
University of Michigan vs. University of Mississippi: Little known fact—the winner of this game not only gets to advance to the next round of the tournament, but also wins the use of the postal abbreviation “MI” for their state for the year. These are public schools, the both of them, but I’m going with Ole’ Miss for three reasons: (1) Mississippians attend church services at a rate far outstripping Michiganders; (2) My friend Eric Hankins is a pastor in Oxford, and; (3) Rob Bell pastored in Michigan.
Kansas State University vs. LaSalle University: This is an easy pick. I favor La Salle because of their religious heritage (see entry in the Opening Round above). I oppose Kansas State just to irk Wes Kenney. La Salle.
University of Arizona vs. Belmont University: The University of Arizona is a secular public school. Belmont University is perhaps even worse than that now, but once upon a time, in the dim mists of antediluvian time, Belmont was  faith-based institution affiliated with Southern Baptists. I’ll pick Belmont.
University of New Mexico vs. Harvard University: Serious, how does New Mexico wind up with two schools in the dance, but Texas winds up with none at all? If you divided up the entire population of New Mexico into five-man teams, you wouldn’t have enough clubs to populate the NCAA Tournament bracket! Harvard’s Congregationalist beginnings are both famous and infamous. Mine will be one of the 3 brackets on that picks Harvard to win.
Ohio State University vs. Iona College: Once upon a time at an FFA National Convention, for 45 minutes I had to listen to a fan of Ohio State who was seated two rows behind me yelling obscenities at a Future Farmer delegation from Michigan who were seated in the section in front of me. It soured me against the Buckeyes for life. Also, Iona is, like St. Mary’s and La Salle, another school founded by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Go Gaels!
South Region
University of Kansas vs. Western Kentucky University: Both of these are public universities. Southern Baptists have a seminary in Kentucky. There’s not much more than that to make the call here. I’ll go with Western Kentucky.
University of North Carolina vs. Villanova University: The University of North Carolina is a public institution. Villanova is an Augustinian Catholic school. I’ll pick Villanova.
Virginia Commonwealth University vs. University of Akron: This really puts a tough choice before us. Here’s the question: Will we consider Unitarian-Universalism to be an actual religious affiliation? Perhaps we will. Akron it is.
University of Michigan vs. South Dakota State: I’m picking Michigan. Why? Just to spite that guy from the FFA Convention that I mentioned back in the OSU vs. Iona game above.
University of California—Los Angeles vs. University of Minnesota: Both of these are secular schools, so we’ll judge them by the states that they represent. Los Angeles is a leading city of the Left Coast. I’m going with Minnesota.
University of Florida vs. Northwestern State University of Louisiana: Both of these are public schools. Tim Tebow went to Florida. Unconvinced by those who allege that Tebow has entirely and permanently sold out, I’ll go with Florida.
San Diego State University vs. University of Oklahoma: Hey, I’ve been to Falls Creek. Boomer Sooner!
Georgetown University vs. Florida Gulf Coast University: Florida Gulf Coast is a relatively new public school. Georgetown is among the leading Catholic universities in the nation. The pick goes to Georgetown.
East Region
University of Indiana vs. James Madison University: Just as in the opening round, James Madison’s (the man) commitment to religious liberty wins the day.
North Carolina State University vs. Temple University: A lot of people don’t realize that there was a “Gospel of Wealth” long before there was Benny Hinn. Russell Conwell and his “Acres of Diamonds” sermon differed a bit in emphasis from the current super-heretical “Word of Faith” movement. He just thought that, if you were a good Christian, you’d embody the virtues of thrift, sobriety, hard work, and the like. For people like that, Conwell was certain, the world was your oyster. What does this have to do with basketball? Conwell founded Temple University (and is also half of the namesake of Gordon-Conwell Seminary). North Carolina State University is a secular institution. I’ll cast my vote for Temple.
University of Nevada—Las Vegas vs. University of California: OK, so this is pretty much like having to choose whether to vote for Satan or Beelzebub. Prostitution is not legal in California. Yet. Since it isn’t the Berkeley campus in view here, I’ll go with California.
Syracuse University vs. University of Montana: Did you know that Syracuse University was founded as a faith-based school? Neither, apparently, does anyone presently associated with the university. So, regardless of what may increase the further you get away from Missoula, I’ll go Orange.
Butler University vs. Bucknell University: Wow, what a difficult choice! Ovid Butler founded the school as an explicitly Christian institution to train up abolitionist preachers and believers. Baptists founded Bucknell in the basement of the First Baptist Church of Lewisburg. I’ll have to take Bucknell because of the explicit Baptist connection, but I’m really wishing that Butler had gone up against someone else in the first round.
Marquette University vs. Davidson College: Marquette, as you probably know, is a Jesuit school—thoroughly Catholic. Davidson College, as you may not know, was founded by North Carolina Presbyterians. Before the foundation of the world, God decreed that I should choose Davidson.
University of Illinois vs. University of Colorado: So, basically, I have to choose between the home state of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the home state of Barack Obama, the president most hostile toward religious liberty in the history of our nation. Yeah…I think I’ll go with Colorado.
University of Miami vs. University of the Pacific: If this set of picks were guided by devotion to Santeria, then Miami would be the obvious choice. But we eat our chickens rather than sacrifice them, so I’m going with the former California Wesleyan College, now known as the University of the Pacific.
Midwest Region
Liberty vs. Missouri: Baptist Liberty wins the day.
Oregon vs. Saint Louis: Sorry, Ducks. I can only go so far in creative mascot endorsements. Saint Louis it is.
Saint Mary’s vs. Valparaiso: Here I stand, endorsing the Lutherans over the Catholics. God help me.
Creighton vs. Duke: Cujus regio, ejus religio. I reign over this bracket, and I’m going with the Protestants at Duke.
West Region
Gonzaga vs. Wichita State: Catholic Gonzaga wins.
Ole’ Miss vs. La Salle: That junip-drinking Reb is an old slave-holding plantation owner anyway. Go La Salle!
Belmont vs. Harvard: Traitors to the Baptist tradition over traitors to the Congregationalist tradition any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Go Belmont.
Notre Dame vs. Iona: Notre Dame has actually contributed quite a bit to Evangelical scholarship down through the years. I’ll take them over Iona.
South Region
Western Kentucky vs. Villanova: Hey, Luther was an Augustinian Canon. Villanova wins.
Akron vs. Michigan: Again, Unitarianism gets just enough of a bump to put Akron on top. It won’t last.
Minnesota vs. Florida: I’ll Tebow once again.
Oklahoma vs. Georgetown: Ronnie Rogers may never forgive me for it, but I’m picking Georgetown. They may be Catholic, but at least they aren’t associated with the dishonest acquisition of land.
East Region
James Madison vs. Temple: Maybe if I support Temple I’ll get those acres of diamonds. I’ll do it!
California vs. Syracuse: California could go further in my picks if the state had enough money to bribe me. But, since they’re financial insolvent (the inexorable fate of liberal politics), I’ll stick with Syracuse.
Bucknell vs. Davidson: Baptists over Presbyterians. That may not be the theme of every post I put on my blog, but I still feel that way. Sorry.
Colorado vs. Pacific: Pacific’s Methodist heritage wins out.
Liberty vs. Saint Louis: Immerse them Cathoilcs until they REALLY repent! Go Liberty.
Valparaiso vs. Duke: I’m ready to support Lutherans over whatever name you would put on what Duke is today.
Gonzaga vs. La Salle: Well, with two Catholic schools, is it OK if I pick Gonzaga just because I think they’re good at basketball?
Belmont vs. Notre Dame: Again, a Southern Baptist origin goes a long way in Belmont’s favor.
Villanova vs. Akron: People at Villanova have actually believed in something theological at some time or another. Bye bye, Akron. Nice knowing you.
Florida vs. Georgetown: Hey, Tebow ain’t there no more. I’ll pick religiously affiliated Georgetown.
Temple vs. Syracuse: I’ll take Temple’s Baptist connections in this matchup.
Bucknell vs. Pacific: I’ve got to go with Bucknell because of their Baptist origins.
Liberty vs. Valparaiso: Do you really have to ask? Liberty it is.
Gonzaga vs. Belmont: This Final-Four is going to be like a Baptist business meeting (at which we will kick Belmont out…later!).
Villanova vs. Georgetown: May Villanova put up three-pointers from within the walls of the Wartburg against the Georgetown scholar-athletes.
Temple vs. Bucknell: Russell Conwell was actually a pretty famous Baptist. I didn’t know about Bucknell’s origins until researching this post. I’ll go with Temple.
Liberty vs. Belmont: It’s going to feel so good to see traitorous Belmont get it, even if it does come at the hands of the Kolob-friendly Liberty University.
Villanova vs. Temple: Here we put out the last of the baby-sprinklers. Go Temple.
Liberty vs. Temple: If only Jerry had lived to see the day. A national championship for Liberty University!
So, if it all goes down that way, I think I’ll throw my name in the hat for the next papal election!



  1. Bart Barber says

    David, you know that I love to confirm erroneous stereotypes and indulge them rather than dispute them. I thought about mentioning Graves in that line for that very reason. As you may recall, years ago in that very vein I posted a photo of myself bowing down before the headstone of Graves’s burial site in Memphis.

    But, in the final analysis, I didn’t think that level of hyperbole would fit well in a paragraph where I did NOT choose Memphis to win. And because they were going up against a religiously-affiliated school, I really had no choice. Hard determinism. 😉

  2. Jess Alford says

    In what universe would anyone say that Liberty had a chance against Louisville. No wait, I’ll bet you have been sick and are on some strong
    drugs. Get well soon.

  3. Greg Harvey says

    Picking the university from the People’s Republic of Minnesota over the relatively blue collar UCLA (at least in comparison to its hoity toity rival U$C) was priceless. On the other hand: B1G hoops v. Pac-12…

    • Bart Barber says

      You want “blue collar”? Minnesota elected a professional wrestler as governor! Certainly, it is the home state of Walter Mondale—I’ll give you that. But until somebody produces “Real Housewives of Minneapolis” I’m sticking with Los Angeles as a greater evil.