Historic Baptist university teams among the 68 selected for the 2024 men's NCAA basketball tournament


Twelve Protestant and Catholic schools — three of which have historic Baptist ties — are among the 68 represented in the 2024 NCAA basketball tournament.

Ready for “March Madness” — the frenzy of championship playoff games taking place all over the country starting this week and leading into the championship game on April 8 — fans anxiously tuned into the selection announcement show Sunday to learn the seeding and schedule of their teams.

And a few hours before the Selection Sunday announcements, it was two state schools that demonstrated the power of prayer.

During the SEC championship game yesterday afternoon, between the Florida Gators and the Auburn Tigers, Gators’ Center Micah Handlogten severely injured his lower left leg during play.

While medics assessed his injury, placed an air cast on his leg and put him on a stretcher, the crowd was silent as both head coaches huddled up their athletes in prayer circles.

Handlogten, who chose the number three for his Florida jersey to represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, received a standing ovation as he was taken to Vanderbilt hospital. Teammates and fans were posting on social media how they were praying for him, demonstrating how the sophomore’s beliefs have impacted others.

Handlogten is reportedly doing well following surgery.

The Protestant and Catholic schools selected to go to "the dance," by regional bracket, are:

East Region bracket

11th ranked Duquesne Dukes (Catholic/Spiritans)

Duquesne hasn’t made it since 1977 but also made the tournament in 1971, 1969, 1952, and 1940 where they made the Final Four. With a long basketball history starting in 1914, they did make a concession and shut down the program from 1944 to 1946 to help with the war effort.

South Region bracket

2nd ranked Marquette (Catholic/Jesuit)

Though Marquette is seeded #2 and has 35 appearances under its belt, including three Final Fours, one runner-up and one national championship, they also have a player who prioritizes more than sports. Forward Oso Ighodaro was named Big East Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The university is in the top 20% nationally overall but this is the first year to have a winner in that program.

4th ranked Duke Blue Devils (United Methodist)

Out of all the faith-based teams included in this year’s roster, Duke has by far the most wins, with five national championships, 11 championship games, and 17 Final Four appearances. They lost their conference championship in the quarterfinal but are still considered one of the country’s best squads. Even so, their first-round game is slated to be a close one.

West Region bracket

3rd ranked Baylor Bears (historically connected to the Baptist General Convention of Texas)

Baylor played in three Final Fours, with a long stretch in between the last two — 1946, 1950, and 2021. But no matter the outcome of March Madness, this year was one to remember. On Jan. 2, 2024, after four years of delays, their new 7,500-capacity Paul & Alejandra Foster Pavilion hosted its first game, which also happened to be a win for the Bears.

5th ranked St Mary’s Gaels (Catholic/Marianists)

St. Mary’s has made it past the first round four times — in 2010, 2017, 2022, and 2023. Though the wins are recent, the school was founded more than 150 years ago. Their unusual nickname originated when in 1926 sportswriter Pat Frayne called the football team “The Gaels” (which means “Irishman”) due to the number of Irish athletes. The Irish Warrior quickly became the college mascot.

7th ranked Dayton Flyers (Catholic/Marianist)

Dayton made the 11th of 18 total appearances in 2000 and will be playing for the 19th time in 2024. Founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary, the school may be rooted in faith and history but is known for the more than 150 patents that have been assigned to the university, including one for the Domino’s Pizza’s hot bags, used to keep delivery pizzas hot.

12th ranked Grand Canyon Lopes (Interdenominational)

While now an interdenominational school, Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention as Grand Canyon College. The Lopes have only been invited in 2021 and 2023 and both times they were defeated in the first round. However, they have seen one of the best comebacks of a player in the NCAA. After being resuscitated during a game due to a heart issue, GCU guard Tyon Grant-Foster made it back — after three surgeries, having an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator implanted and being told for two years he would never play again. He gives God the praise, saying, “God gives His strongest battles to His toughest soldiers, so it was something I felt I would overcome.” The guard is now a national top-20 scorer.

Midwest Region bracket

3rd ranked Creighton Blue Jays (Catholic/Jesuit)

With 23 NCAA Tournament appearances in their history, Creighton has never made it past the Elite Eight, and that was in 1941. Experts at CBS call Ryan Kalkbrenner, Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander and Steven Ashworth a dynamic group that makes a “nightmare matchup for any opponent.” Their odds are good for taking it all.

5th ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs (Catholic/Jesuit)

Though having 24 consecutive tournament bids going into the 2024 Selection Sunday, earlier in the month Gonzaga looked like it might be left out for the first time since 1998. After losing to St. Mary’s in the conference championship, they were concerned about a loss in rank but ended up making their predicted fifth seed.

9th ranked TCU Horned Frogs (Disciples of Christ)

TCU (Texas Christian University) was founded in 1873 and was one of the first co-ed institutions west of the Mississippi. Only participating 10 times in March Madness, the team has one player who might not be the highest ranked but knows what’s most important. Sophomore Darius Ford started a nonprofit in high school called Change for Kids, currently runs a Bible study group called Army and hosted a clothing drive at a recent game.

13th ranked Samford Bulldogs (historically connected to Alabama Baptists)

Beginning in 2021, the Bulldogs have had three straight 20-win seasons under their head coach Bucky McMillan’s lead and just earned their first-ever Southern Conference (SoCon) tournament title. During Selection Sunday, the hosts predicted a win by the Bulldogs against 4th-seeded Kansas, though they said the “altitude could be an issue.” This is the first year since 2000 the Bulldogs have gone dancing.

15th ranked St Peter’s Peacocks (Catholic/Jesuit)

In 2022, 15th seed St. Peter’s produced one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, beating #2 Kentucky. That year they also made it to the Elite Eight, so they know what winning feels like against all odds.