Let’s Dance

03.16.14

The March Madness Teams to Cheer If Yours Got Bounced

Unlucky fans and casual observers alike can still enjoy the NCAA tournament.

If your college basketball team was left out of the dance on Sunday, don’t give up on March Madness. But how do you decide who to cheer for without a direct interest in any of the 68 teams that made the field? Forget Mailroom Doug’s seven-year reign over your office pool; let’s find you some teams you can really get behind.

Here’s the team to root for if…

If you want Cinderella to become the empress of the world...

Root for Wichita State. Representing the Missouri Valley Conference, the Shockers enter the tournament 34-0, the first team to go undefeated since UNLV in 1991. Last year, Gregg Marshall’s “play angry” bunch became the latest mid-major to unexpectedly make the Final Four, and now they want to become the first of those Cinderellas to win the whole thing. Plus, WuShock the mascot looks like the mutant spawn of Gumby and a moldy string cheese and that’s freaking awesome.

If you want to be disliked by the 99 percent of America...

Root for Duke. To be honest, this is the least hateable Duke team in decades. But if you didn’t go to school in Durham, it’s just obnoxious to say you’re a fan.

If you like broad-shouldered, sweet-shooting Midwestern boys...

Root for Creighton. Between presumptive National Player of the Year Doug McDermott (26.9 points per game, 45 percent on three-pointers) and long-range specialist Ethan Wragge (47 percent on three-pointers, 220 of his 227 field goal attempts came from behind the arc), that’s 13’3” and 450 pounds of swish. The Bluejays might have the best-shooting frontcourt in the history of college basketball.

If you like a consistent narrative...

Root for Michigan State. Tom Izzo has been the Spartans’ head coach since 1995, and every four-year player has been to at least one Final Four. In order for that trend to continue, seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne would need to lead Sparty to the promised land this time around.

If you want young men to succeed...

Root for Oklahoma State. Star guard Marcus Smart has been crucified this season—flopping, sulking, kicking chairs, and shoving fans—and much of the criticism of him has been sound. But some people are now rooting for him to fail, employing some twisted logic that says Smart deserves to suffer further because of his faults and mistakes. These couch-critics think that if he now plays well, acts maturely, and his Cowboys win, he won’t have learned his due lesson. That’s spiteful and ridiculous. We should want to see Smart turn things around (and he’s been quite impressive since his three-game suspension in February). We should want to see signs of growth and accomplishment. Good luck, Marcus.

If you believe in the “student” in student-athlete...

Root for Harvard. But don’t root for guard Brandyn Curry or forward Kyle Casey. Both were suspended last year for cheating.

If you like unorthodox talent…

Root for UCLA. Kyle Anderson, the Bruins’ 6’9”, 230-pound forward, has as unique a skill set as you’ll ever see. He’s remarkably unathletic but incredibly effective, kind of like your uncle’s old pickup truck. Slow but steady, Anderson has few definable moves but seems to get wherever he wants on the court. He averages 14.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, powering the best Bruins squad since 2008-09.

If you like orthodox talent…

Root for Northwestern. OK, so the 14-19 Wildcats didn’t make postseason play, but this year Aaron Liberman became the first orthodox Jew to play major college basketball since the Jewish Jordan in 2001.

If you like Daft Punk...

Don’t root for the antithesis of “Get Lucky,” Pittsburgh. The Panthers lost games on heartbreaking last-second shots by Syracuse, Virginia, and Cincinnati. They’ve dropped several other close calls, as well.

If you believe that pimpin’ ain’t easy…

Root for Iowa State. The Cyclones are led by do-it-all point guard DeAndre Kane, a transfer from Marshall who’s almost 25 years old. Feel free, therefore, to refer to DeAndre as Big Daddy Kane, who happens to be the old-school rapper who performed, you guessed it, "Pimpin' Ain't Easy."

If you like thunderous shot-blocking by a 5’11” point guard whose father holds the NBA’s all-time assists record…

Root for Gonzaga, and watch this David Stockton highlight on loop.

If you like a real underdog story...

Root for Cal Poly. The Mustangs are legitimately bad. They went 13-19, good enough for sixth place in the perennially-unimpressive Big West Conference. Somehow they strung together three wins in their conference tournament and sneaked into the Big Dance. Imagine if they knocked off, say, Arizona. (OK, that’ll never happen, but the kids can dream, can’t they?)

If you like “gangstas” but not “thugs…”

Root for the Xavier. After a 2011 brawl with rival Cincinnati, former Musketeers point guard Tu Holloway said, “We’re a tougher team. We’re grown men over here. We got a whole bunch of gangstas in the locker room, not thugs but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game.”

If you like thugs but not gangstas...

Root for the Cincinnati Bearcats, duh.

If you like coaches who look like models...

Root for Villanova. It’s not new news, but Jay Wright is a stud in his pinstripe three-piece suits. Looking somewhat like a more avuncular Michael Corleone, Wright has been crowned champion of GQ’s Fashionable Four multiple times.

If you like to score…

Root for BYU. The Cougars pour in 84.2 points per game, more than any other team in the tourney.

If you like those fans who hold cardboard cutouts of a capital D and a fence…

Root for Virginia. Cavalier opponents might as well be wearing corsets, with how tightly Virginia’s defenders lock them down.

If you like really passionate male cheerleaders…

Root for Iowa. There are no words. 

If you like the NBA…

Root for Kentucky. Coach John Calipari produces more one-and-dones than any other school. It’s like his players don’t really care about physics class or something. But seriously, if you’re trying to scout for your favorite pro team, watch the Wildcats.

If you like mammal species from the suborder Vermilingua (meaning "worm tongue")...

Root for UC Irvine. The school’s mascot is an anteater, a fearsome, awe-inspiring anteater

If you like the American colonization of Texas…

Root for Stephen F. Austin. The college is named after the 19th century empresario known as the Father of Texas. Oh, and the Lumberjacks are on a 28-game winning streak.

If you want to root for a potential winner...

Root for Florida, Arizona, Michigan State, Wichita State, Iowa State, or Louisville. I promise. Fingers currently crossed behind my back.