The Final Four in Indianapolis is upon us and, once again, the best basketball program in the state of Ohio is not going to be represented. (That's Xavier, for those of you being obtuse). For the devoted college basketball fan simply not watching this season reach its exciting denouement is not an option. The eyes of the sporting world will finally, rightfully, be focused on college basketball. The Final Four is not just an event you can miss. So, who to cheer for? Sure, we all just want see good games, but as those games go, you find yourself pulling for one team or another. Here's the pros and cons of each squad left.
Pros: Much like Calipari's other seasons of note, this one will be vacated soon. No other school has seen its wins or titles survive after Coach Cal's one and done free agents come and go, and UK won't either. Therefore, you could cheer for this team guilt free. It's like an ice cream sundae that you know the flu will cause you to throw up later. If you like your sundaes with an extra helping of scorn from your friends. And with the with the self-loathing of being a front runner. [ed. note: These don't read like pros.]
Cons: You would be temporarily joining one of the most entitled and least knowledgeable fanbases in sports. If you think OSU football fans or UC anything are bad, it's because you've never been in Kentucky when the Big Blue frontrunners come out during a winning season. Listening to UK fans is unbearable when their team is winning, impossible when the team loses, because they all vanish.
Pros: Not really an objectionable personality in the bunch. Denzel Valentine sprinted to find his brother after their Elite Eight win (Drew is on staff at MSU), and then they went and found their parents. That's a cool story. At some point you also just have to tip your cap to Tom Izzo and admit that all of the praise that flows his way every March is deserved.
Cons: This is not a team that's terribly fun to watch. These Spartans do Spartan things and aren't afraid to grind out wins. The metronomic consistency of this team and the resulting adulation does get a bit old at times. Did you know they practice in football pads!?! Who does that?!?! Well yes, we do, because you tell us every single year. It's the Uber story of Michigan.
Pros: Not UK.
Cons: If UK isn't the most entitled fanbase in the basketball world, it's because Duke is. Want to know where Cameron Indoor ranks in the toughest places to win in the nation? 22nd. Right behind the fearsome Lloyd Noble Center of Oklahoma (the Cintas is ninth). Christian Laettner went to Duke, as did JJ Redick, and a whole host of other soft as melted butter prima donnas. If you wear Abercrombie, spend at least 90 minutes a morning on your carefully mussed hair, and really hope that the Capitol wins in the Hunger Games, Duke is your team.
Pros: College basketball at its game planned finest. Bo Ryan is a genius at getting the very best out of every single matchup, and often without the superior athletes that his competitors rely on. Cerebral, well coached, and almost mechanically precise, Wisconsin plays their offense and defense with a single mind. If you love the Xs and Os of the game, there is no reason not to love the Badgers. They are going to do their thing, and they are going to make you adjust to it. It's brilliant in its simplicity and design.
Cons: If a frewheeling, devil may care style is what you like in your teams, these aren't the guys for you. Wisconsin has both the most efficient offense in the nation and functionally the slowest. They can score (92 in 65 possessions against Indiana), but they won countless games this year without scoring 70.
So there it is. Those are the four teams left. Two represent the established powers in college basketball, for all their various flaws. They other two hail from the Big Ten and either survive on a blue collar work ethic or a machine efficient offense that wears opponents down. The choice of who to cheer for is yours, not watching is not really an option.