NOTE: I see that the Dallas Morning News religion blog has linked to this post. Thanks, Sam, for reading. But I hasten to note that I am writing here (a) with a good deal of mirth, (b) on a blog that, until the DMN links to it, is pretty much intramural in the Southern Baptist world. So, there are a lot of "inside" references that are not explained below. My apologies if you find it hard to follow at points.
Last year I revealed to the world my habit of picking a "Baptist Renaissance" bracket for each year's NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. The basic idea is to pick the winners based upon how closely each school can be connected to the subject that I occasionally teach: Baptist History. There are some exceptions, but in general, schools with a religious origin outrank secular schools, schools presently demonstrating some spiritual vitality outrank schools who have long ago departed their religious origins, Protestant schools outrank Catholic schools, and Baptist schools top the entire chart. I'll let you guess how well this normally matches the actual results of the basketball tournament. ;-)
Louisville v. ?: The world does not yet know whether Louisville will face Alabama State or Morehead State in the first round. Yet there's very little suspense: the outcome probably doesn't matter much with regard to the actual fate of the #1 seeded Cardinals, neither does it matter for the Baptist Renaissance picks. Both Morehead State and Louisville were founded as religious schools, failed as religious schools, and were taken over by the state of Kentucky. Given the legitimate option to choose either, I'd be a madman not to take Louisville.
Siena v. Ohio State: Siena is a Franciscan Catholic school. Ohio State has been, since its inception, a state school. The pick goes to Siena.
Utah v. Arizona: Both institutions are state schools. Utah is, of course, the home state of the Mormon heresy. As a fellow Arkansan paying my respects to the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, I give the Baptist Renaissance nod to Arizona.
Wake Forest v. Cleveland State: Cleveland State University traces its origins to classes launched by the Cleveland Young Men's Christian Association, although the university didn't flourish until bankrolled by Sherwin-Williams co-founder S. P. Fenn. Cleveland State, therefore, has some religious aspect to its founding. Wake Forest, however, was once a Baptist school, having been founded by the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Wake Forest is the pick, in spite of what the school may be today.
West Virginia v. University of Dayton: Dayton is a Catholic school pitted against secular West Virginia. Every shot is a Hail Mary shot for them. Go Dayton!
Kansas v. N. Dakota State: Kansas is really close to Oklahoma, it is a state that opposes evolution, and a scant few miles separate it from a Southern Baptist seminary. N. Dakota, on the other hand, is a place where for ten months out of the year the water doesn't thaw enough to baptize by immersion. I have to pick Kansas.
Boston College v. University of Southern California: Last year I shunned all things Californian. But this year things are going to be different. On the one hand, you might expect me to pick Boston College, because it is a Catholic school. However, larger factors must be brought to bear here. Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage. California, on the other hand, has passed Proposision 8. This series of events puts me into a much more favorable state of mind toward California. So, in complete violation of the rules—and probably in a stroke of injustice against a school that may oppose gay marriage in favor of a school that probably supports it—I'm spinning my pro-California bias in favor of USC.
Michigan State v. Robert Morris University: Neither is a religious school. Robert Morris University was named after a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Baptists love religious liberty. Religious liberty came through the First Amendment, which only exists because of the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, the Declaration of Independence is somewhat a theological document. The pick goes to RMU.
University of Connecticut v. University of Tennessee-Chattanooga: Both are state schools. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, however, was founded by the Methodists. What's more, Chattanooga is the home of Moon Pies (I prefer the banana ones, thank you very much!), which may have no significance to Baptist Renaissance ideas, but matters a great deal to me personally. I'm going with the Mocs.
Brigham Young University v. Texas A&M: The Aggies are a state school, but they also are the home of one of the largest Baptist Student Ministry groups in the world. College Station and its environs are home to some of the stronger churches that we have in the Southern Baptist Convention. By the way, the inaugural graduating class at Texas A&M included none other than Edgar Young Mullins. On the other side of the court will be BYU. I'm personally willing to volunteer to pour cayenne pepper into their magic underwear before tip-off. Although Rufus Burleson spins in his grave every time he hears me say it, "Go Aggies!"
Purdue University v. University of Northern Iowa: Two state schools from the Midwest face each other on the court. From the perspective of the Baptist Renaissance, these schools look pretty much the same. But wait, there is a means for breaking this tie. The Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting has taken place twice in recent years in the Hoosier state. Have we ever met in Iowa? I don't think so. Therefore, I go with Purdue.
Washington v. Mississippi State: Mississippi has historically been among the strongest states for Southern Baptists. What about Washington State? Rumor has it that there are churches in Seattle, although I turn on my TV Guardian before I listen to sermons from up there. I'm going with the Bulldogs.
Marquette v. Utah State: Utah? Do you really have to ask? Marquette.
Missouri v. Cornell: I said some nice things about Cornell last year and picked them above Stanford. But Missouri is a good state in which a lot of God-fearing Baptists reside. We have a seminary in the state. I'm going with Mizzou.
California v. Maryland: This pick is entirely about Prop 8. I'm going with California.
Memphis v. California State University, Northridge: I've been giving California a lot of props for Prop 8, but it stops here. As important as it is, Prop 8 cannot overcome the fact that J. R. Graves, founder of Landmarkism is buried there(and as the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-discerning Wade Burleson will soon tell you in his new book, anybody who has the word Baptist in the name of his church is basically a Landmarker). Also, Memphis is the resting place for such grandees as R. G. Lee and Adrian Rogers. I'll pick Memphis.
Pittsburgh v. East Tennessee State University: Tennessee is the home of the SBC Executive Committee and Lifeway. Pittsburg is not. I'm going with ETSU.
Oklahoma State Univeristy v. University of Tennessee: Both are secular universities, but Robin Foster lives in the shadow of OSU and is a big Cowboy fan. So this one's for you, Robin. Go Cowboys.
Florida State University v. University of Wisconsin: I'm guessing that the Florida Baptist Witness will endorse the Seminoles, and I'm a fan of that paper. FSU over Wisconsin.
Xavier v. Portland St.: Catholic Xavier over very secular Portland State in very secular Oregon.
UCLA v. Virginia Commonwealth University: Virginia Commonwealth came into being upon the merger of Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia. The Medical College of Virginia was originally the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College. Hampden-Sydney College has an historical association with the Presbyterians. It is a weak link, but it beats anything UCLA has. I'm going with VCU.
Villanova v. American: Villanova is a Catholic school. American University has a long history with the Methodists. I'm going with American.
Texas v. Minnesota: Although I used to love to listen to a Minnesotan friend of mine utter the words "Golden Gophers" in a way that only a Minnesota accent can do, there are more Southern Baptists in Austin than in the entire state of Minnesota, I'm willing to wager. Longhorns get the pick.
Duke v. SUNY-Binghamton: Duke is a Methodist school. Binghamton is secular. The pick goes to Duke.
University of North Carolina v. Radford: This is a tough one. Both are secular schools. Both are in Baptist-heavy states (or heavy-Baptist states, perhaps!). But of the two states, Virginia has one state convention sacrificially forwarding a large percentage of its Cooperative Program giving to national and international causes. That's enough to make a tie-breaker for me. No slight against the North Carolinians, just a chance to pat the SBCV on the back for their generosity, and I'm taking it. I'm picking Radford.
Louisiana State University v. Butler: This might be a hard pick for some folks. Louisiana is a state that a Southern Baptist seminary calls home, as well as a lot of strong Baptist churches. Furthermore, LSU is a school known for drunken brawls, and that will endear it to some segments of today's SBC. But I'm choosing Butler. Ovid Butler founded the school as an explicitly Christian institution to train up abolitionist preachers and believers. Butler over LSU.
Illinois v. Western Kentucky: These are both state institutions. I'll pick Western Kentucky over the home of Rod Blagojevich and all of those other holders of high political office from Illinois for which he stands.
Gonzaga v. Akron: Akron was founded by the Universalists; Gonzaga by the Catholics. Go Gonzaga!
Arizona State University v. 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). ASU is secular. I'm picking Temple.
Syracuse v. Steven F. Austin: Syracuse, although few traces now remain, was founded by the Methodists. SFA is a secular institution. All other things being equal, that would make this match a shoe-in for Syracuse (together with their #3 seeding, of course!). But SFA is named after Steven F. Austin the Texas hero. And the planting of Austin's Colony in Texas brought religious liberty to what had previously been rigidly and intolerantly Catholic Spanish territory. I love religious liberty, so I'm picking SFA to win over Syracuse.
Clemson v. Michigan: I confess that I know very little about Thomas Green Clemson, but I was able to discover online that he's buried in a church cemetery. Besides, I like Clemson to win. I'll pick Clemson.
Oklahoma v. Morgan State: I'd take the Sooners over a lot of the other state schools in the bracket this year, but as luck would have it, Oklahoma faces Morgan State University. Morgan State was founded by the Methodists as the Centenary Biblical Institute, so I've just got to go with them.
Louisville v. Siena: We have a seminary in Louisville. That counts for a lot. Go Cards.
Arizona v. Wake Forest: Wake Forest's Baptist roots dominate this match-up.
Dayton v. Kansas: Dayton.
USC v. Robert Morris: The patriot in me sides with Robert Morris.
Chattanooga v. TAMU: For my Baptist Aggie brethren!
Purdue v. Mississippi State: Personally, I'd rather the convention meet in Mississippi...so much closer. Go Bulldogs.
Marquette v. Missouri: Religious Marquette over secular Mizzou.
California v. Memphis: Go, Memphis State (that's what they were called when I lived in the area). The MidSouth region never would've had to have that Proposition 8 to begin with.
ETSU v. OSU: I'll take Oklahoma State, to further ingratiate myself to Robin Foster.
Florida State v. Xavier: Catholic Xavier over secular FSU.
VCU v. American: Methodist American Univeristy over secular Virginia Commonwealth.
Texas v. Duke: Private quasi-religious Duke over state-school Texas.
Radford v. Butler: Butler's mission was pretty neat. I'm going with Butler.
Western Kentucky v. Gonzaga: Gonzaga.
Temple v. SFA: Did I mention that Conwell was a Baptist? Temple.
Clemson v. Morgan State: Morgan State, former seminary for African-American preachers, for the win.
Louisville v. Wake Forest: And here we arrive at one of my inconsistencies. Wake Forest represents where the SBC would be but for the Conservative Resurgence. Louisville always reminds me of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which made one of the more radical turnarounds in the story of the Conservative Resurgence. I know that the University of Louisville is not the same institution as SBTS, but SBTS will never have a basketball team in the NCAA tournament. I'm going with my heart over my head, and I'm picking Louisville over Wake Forest.
Dayton v. Robert Morris: Dayton is a religious school, so it vanquishes good old Colonial hero Robert Morris.
Texas A&M v. Mississippi State: Aggies over Bulldogs.
Marquette v. Memphis: The Landmarkers versus the Catholics? The gates of Hell shall not prevail against Memphis.
Oklahoma State v. Xavier: Sorry, Robin, but OSU is a secular school. Xavier.
American v. Duke: Methodists versus Methodists. But one group of Methodists is from Washington D.C. Right now, I'm inclined to vote against everything coming from there. Duke.
Butler v. Gonzaga: Ovid Butler's Protestant vision over Catholic Gonzaga.
Temple v. Morgan State: Temple.
Louisville v. Dayton: If I'm basically equating Louisville with Southern Seminary, then I must follow the logic of my illogic. Cardinals win.
Texas A&M v. Memphis: Oooooohhhh. Tough one. J. R. Graves v. E. Y. Mullins. Historically, Mullins won. But I love to fulfill people's stereotypes, just to see what they do. I'll take J. R. Graves and Memphis.
Xavier v. Duke: Which boils down to siding with Luther or Leo X. I'll go with Duke.
Butler v. Temple: I'll go with Temple's Baptist heritage here.
Louisville v. Memphis: Many would say that I have to take J. R. Graves over Louisville, but you've got to remember that Thomas Treadwell Eaton lived in Louisville, too. I'm taking Louisville.
Duke v. Temple: Temple will find "Acres of Diamonds" on the court against Duke.
Temple (87) over Louisville (63)
And if it really happens that way, and THESE predictions of mine come true, then Tracy and I are taking over from Jack and Rexella.