Who will it be?
Gonzaga? Villanova? Creighton? St. Mary’s? Seton Hall? St. Peter’s? Notre Dame? Loyola-Chicago?
Which Catholic university men’s basketball program will step forward and win the NCAA Division I championship?
“This is your time,” Herb Brooks told his United States hockey team before it pulled off the biggest upset of the 20th century by beating the Soviet Union, 4-3, at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
Five years after the miracle on ice, Villanova pulled off a miracle of its own by playing a near perfect game in upsetting Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas for the national championship.
And you ask why I’m bringing up Georgetown and Villanova? I’ll tell you with some sports trivia. When was the last time Catholic universities won back-to-back NCAA Division I men’s basketball titles?
Georgetown and Villanova won the national titles in 1984 and 1985, the last time Catholic universities won back-to-back NCAA Division I titles. In 1985, St. John’s gave Catholic universities a third representative in the Final Four.
By the way, here is some more trivia. How many Catholic universities have won NCAA Division I men’s basketball championships since 1985?
Only one – Villanova in 2016 and 2018.
Like the U.S. hockey team in 1980 and the 1985 Villanova men’s basketball team, Catholic universities have an opportunity to create miraculous moments and win the 2022 NCAA tournament.
So who will it be?
Gonzaga, the nation’s No. 1 team going into the tournament, is due to finally bring coach Mark Few and Spokane, Wash., a national championship. Few and Gonzaga have 23 consecutive 20-plus win seasons, and Few has won almost 84 percent of his games as Gonzaga coach.
How about Big East tournament champ Villanova? Jay Wright continues to do a great job in Philadelphia with a team led by Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie.
St. Mary’s, a top-25 team, was the runner-up to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament, and Creighton nearly beat Villanova in the Big East tournament final.
What about Notre Dame? Will the Fighting Irish enjoy some luck of the Irish in this tournament? Notre Dame created a tournament memory for fans on the night before St. Patrick’s Day by rallying to beat Rutgers in double overtime.
Seton Hall and St. Peter’s are both from neighboring New Jersey. St. Peter’s, a 15th seed, won the MAAC tournament which includes colleges located in the archdiocese–Iona, Manhattan and Marist. Seton Hall is coached by Kevin Willard, who once coached at Iona.
How about Loyola-Chicago? This is only their third NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, and the first two produced great moments from great opportunity. The Ramblers reached the Final Four in 2018 and Loyola Chicago upset top seed Illinois to reach the Sweet 16 in 2021.
And there is Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, B.V.M., Loyola Chicago’s team chaplain since 1994 who is now 102 years old. Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago became the story of the 2018 tournament and many were looking for the same when Loyola Chicago reached the Sweet 16 last year.
Is there an upset or two in Loyola Chicago’s future? Loyola Chicago is a 10 seed playing seventh seed Ohio State. Ohio State has lost four of its last five games.
“Ohio State? We’ll take ’em. We’ll work on ’em. … I believe our young men will do it,” said Sister Jean.
The stories and the memories are what make March Madness so much fun.