It's going to be really hard to turn on a television or radio this coming weekend and not hear about the teams bearing down on the Final Four. I don't need to tell any of you that Xavier will not be in the games that start on Thursday for the Sweet 16. The second weekend has started to feel like something of a birthright for the Musketeers, but this year they will be as much spectators as all of the rest of us.
That leaves the Musketeer loving fan in a bit of a dilemma should he or she be sufficiently recovered to attempt to watch basketball. In the absence of cheering for our favorite team, cheering for someone else can help at least paper over the cracks. It's not the same, but all that March energy has to go somewhere.
Consistent excellence. It must be easy to be a Jayhawk fan. You start the season knowing that you have the Big 12 won and you go from there. Bill Self is pretty much unobjectionable and has kept Kansas at the top for a long time. Despite that, the Jayhawks rarely win it all or even make the Final Four. You can cheer for them without feeling totally like a front runner.
Maryland adopted and loved Dez Wells after Xavier's administration kicked him out for being a college kid. Melo Trimble is exciting to watch. It's been a long time since the Terps did anything to make Xavier fans upset, and they aren't coached by genuine sleazeball Gary Williams anymore.
Yes, the Marlins are an abomination, but what has the Hurricane basketball program ever done to anyone? Whenever a team is down five with two seconds to go, Darius Rice comes to mind. Jim Larranaga is way ahead of the curve when it comes to using analytics in college basketball. A mind like his deserves to have a team that wins something.
Outside of winning when they meet Xavier, Villanova isn't that bad. Jay Wright is pure class in every way and that has spread to his team. Unlike the overrated Providence clan, the Wildcats don't indulge in self-aggrandizing that gets in the way of the team. Plus, they bomb away from deep. When that isn't happening to you, it's fun to watch. Plus, Big East pride.
It takes some swag to wear a highlighter color yellow and not look in the bit sheepish. These guys play efficient basketball without getting boring. You also have to respect a program that regularly schedules even the smallest of in state schools every year.
There is literally no reason to ever cheer for Duke. Even if the very forces of evil themselves were to field a team, it would be better to cheer for that squad than to pull for a bunch of sweater around the waist, spoiled rotten, filthy rich, crybabies.
#3 Texas A&M:
That comeback. I have been watching basketball with the power of cognition fully intact for probably three decades now, and I've never seen anything like that. I once saw an NAIA game where a team was down 11 with 59 seconds to play. That seems like child's play compared to what A&M did. If you haven't seen it, take the less than two minutes it takes to catch the greatest comeback you'll ever see.
Fast offense, a ton of three pointers, and surprisingly relentless defense. The Sooners are a blast to watch, and they don't get tight. Oklahoma was playing VCU in the second round and elected to open the game with a lob to Khadeem Lattin. It didn't work. What did the Sooners do the next possession? Ran the exact same backdoor screen and high toss. Hard to argue with that.
Every once in a while, they beat Duke.
Yogi Ferrell is a real point guard's point guard. He can shoot, but he likes to get his team involved first. Since Bob Knight left, the Hoosiers are a lot harder to hate. Plus, they beat UK, who is super easy to hate. It's really a win-win thing.
16 reasons to hate the 16 teams left
Xavier is gone, so you might as well channel that energy into cheering against every single team that is left. Here's a quick primer on why to hate.
#6 Notre Dame:
There must be a reason to cheer for Notre Dame. I already wrote the headline, and I'm not changing it. The campus is beautiful, even the most cynical of Golden Dome haters has to admit that.
Bo Ryan was a basketball genius, and he wasn't afraid to dance to Soulja Boy. The team had a really rough transition away from him midway through this year, but still stayed true to the Wisconsin Swing and being a group of genuinely decent people. Yes, Bronson Koenig knocked Xavier out, but he buried two daggers to accomplish it. To that you just tip your cap and move on.
Efficiency. The Cavaliers aren't going to waste any possessions and their defense is going to keep them right in games. They also play slowly, so cheering for Virginia means you're going to get to see some close games down the stretch. They aren't the most exciting team in the world, but that isn't always a bad thing.
#4 Iowa St:
Georges Niang keeps staying and keeps getting better. This is another team that feels like it is incredibly well supported by it's community. Watch long enough and Jameel McKay is going to absolutely cram a dunk on someone.
They are playing Syracuse. There's no reason to cheer against anyone who is playing Syracuse. Plus, Gonzaga has started to quit being the new big thing as the media has moved on to the paper tigers at Wichita State. It's easier to cheer a small team after everyone quits fawning all over them.
Is your dad 50? Does he think still has it and could play at the college level? Great news, he already fits in Syracuse' defense! Have him brings his friends and all their headbands and knee braces, too! The 2-3 zone, it's the defense anyone could play but literally no one should. Seriously though, cheer for your dad.