It’s that time of year again, when almost everyone’s dreams of winning their bracket is over and for the vast majority of the population their teams have been eliminated from the tournament. So naturally, every sports media organization insists on putting together a “who should you root for” article for those of us who are dealing with the dual heartbreak of your school’s season ending and your bracket being busted.
Because I’m a sheep, I’m doing the same thing.
Mind you, I don’t care who you pull for. There are crazy people in this world who can justify wanting to see Duke cut down the nets at the end of the season. But for some insane reason, several weeks ago I figured that my beloved Michigan State team was such a lock for the Final Four that I decided to buy tickets and go visit a buddy to watch my team win the national title in Texas.
So now I’m required to find a new set of teams to root for. With such unlikable teams as Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and Syracuse left in the bracket and more than a few Cinderellas with intriguing backstories, picking a new team shouldn’t be all that hard, right?
Oh, if only. This year’s Sweet 16 seems to be populated by the unlikable blue bloods and the generic Cinderellas. There’s not a Florida Gulf Coast or Butler left in the bunch. So this could be a bit more challenging than it would seem at first.
#9 Kansas State: Not a particularly unlikable team, but they did knock out the Cinderella of all Cinderellas – the only 16th seed to ever beat a 1-seed – in UMBC in one of the most unwatchable games you’ll ever see. Also, I once hung out with a group of Kansas State fans who insisted that ESPN hated their basketball team, when in reality Kansas State’s basketball team is rarely relevant enough for ESPN to have an opinion on. (Now, if you want to see how ESPN truly hates a team, just look at how they’ve tried to tie MSU’s basketball team to the disgusting Larry Nassar scandal.)
#5 Kentucky: After the tournament selection show, Kentucky coach John Calipari screamed to the high heavens that his team got screwed in their seeding, and even complained that several of his players didn’t know where Boise was (hmm, seems like a problem with the education of your players). And then, because karma exists, Kentucky could go to the Final Four this year without playing a team seeded higher than 7th (or, if the Basketball Gods have a sense of humor, no team seeded higher than 9th). On that basis alone we should pray for an upset to knock these guys out. Complicating matters, however, is that in my company pool I have Kentucky winning it all. Thankfully, the prize is only a $20 gift card, and I’m not so cheap as to root for Kentucky over a matter of $20.
#11 Loyola-Chicago: Our first true Cinderella. Loyola’s a fun team with a couple of exciting buzzer beaters to advance, a cute fan in 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean, and I didn’t have to suffer through sitting next to an obnoxious Loyola fan cheering every made basket at the bar as a friend of mine did this week. But Loyola’s a Catholic school that recently responded to a comedian bringing up the Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal during his set by cutting his mic, which offends my delicate agnostic sensibilities. Not as simple a choice as one would think.
#7 Nevada: They defeated Cincinnati – always an unlikable school – with an epic comeback and have no glaring or particularly offensive flaws. Plus their coach dropped a ton of expletives on live TV while celebrating their first round win, and that appeals to my life-long potty mouth tendencies.
The choice: Nevada
#9 Florida State: The Seminoles are a generally unlikable school, although that can typically be attributed to their football team and their decades of recruiting morally questionable characters. But if the Seminoles can somehow pull off a miracle and win the whole thing my pool is won by my friend’s 5-year-old daughter, which would seem oddly fitting this season.
#4 Gonzaga: Ordinarily I wouldn’t begrudge a team for screwing up my bracket, but Gonzaga cost me some cash last year with a fairly significant bed-shitting in the national championship game. Plus Gonzaga has joined Kansas and Michigan State as schools who are going to screw up my bracket every year, no matter where I pick them to win or lose.
#3 Michigan: I just can’t. Sure, a chunk of my friends would be happy and I don’t hate Michigan nearly as much as I should, but I just cannot maintain my Spartan credentials and pull for Michigan to win the title. It’s already painful enough listening to the Wal-Mart Wolverines brag about how they’ve beaten us 3 straight times. Having to watch them cut down the nets would just be unbearable.
#7 Texas A&M: Aside from their consistency in being a highly regarded team in football every year that ultimately disappoints, there’s nothing particularly offensive about this team. Plus, they knocked out North Carolina, who offended me with their ridiculous seeding.
The choice: Texas A&M
#1 Villanova: Another team that’s not particularly offensive. They are from Philly though, and they’ve already gotten enough this year.
#5 West Virginia: Coached by Bob Huggins. ‘Nuff said.
#3 Texas Tech: It’s hard for me to pull for any team that once employed Bob Knight. That said, the father-in-law of the buddy who’s going to the games with me went to Texas Tech, so I may wind up pulling for them through osmosis.
#2 Purdue: The highest remaining Big 10 team and the only team left in the field that MSU defeated this year. This one seems easy.
The choice: Purdue
#1 Kansas: An annoying program, if moderately successful. Did you know that for all their history, legendary alums, and the fact that they literally invented the game, they only have 3 national titles? And one of those came as a 6-seed and another came because Memphis couldn’t hit free throws? They’re the Cincinnati Reds of NCAA basketball.
#5 Clemson: Not gonna lie, in a region with Kansas, Syracuse, and Duke, the 4th team is going to be the pick by default.
#11 Syracuse: If it weren’t for one man, Jim Boeheim would be the most annoying coach in America. I’ve said that for years, and it has nothing to do with the fact that they used their bullshit scheme to beat my alma mater.
#2 Duke: The only coach more annoying that Boeheim. Coach K’s Boeheim with a bag man, enough talent to actually win without resorting to gimmick schemes, and Grayson Allen. If the fate of humanity rested on Duke winning a game, I’d say my prayers and hope the afterlife is worth it. That said, I did hedge my bets and have a bracket with Duke winning that still has the potential to put me in the money, so if they win it all it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
The choice: Clemson
So there you have it folks. As a miserable son of a bitch who truly believes his school’s season was derailed by bullshit accusations levied by a lazy news organization trying to stir up controversy for the sake of ratings, the only way my cold dead heart will be happy is if we get a Final Four of Nevada, Texas A&M, Purdue, and Clemson.
So let me be the first to congratulate Kentucky, Michigan, Villanova, and Duke for their regional titles.
See you in Texas!