Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ranking the NCAA Tournament Field by "Likability"

Pictured: Noted basketball player that many people do not like, former Duke Blue Devil Christian Laettner.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Selection Sunday is over, and now it's time to start your office bracket pool.

Inevitably, your bracket will fall apart before the night games Thursday, so I'm not even going to try to tell you who is going to do what during the tournament (except that Kentucky is going all the way, and that Purdue got screwed).

What I will do, however, is remind you that there are some teams/schools that are just so fun to root against, and there are some squads you find yourself pulling for, for whatever reason.

What usually makes a team "likable?"

Well, we tend to want them to play "the right way." This means buying in on defense, hitting the glass, and being able to shoot the three. You know, all white guy basketball stereotypes.

While we're at it, let's stick with racial stereotypes, because most plucky underdogs and national darlings (Gonzaga, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, etc) have had overly "white" rosters throughout the years.

So, it helps to have white players, apparently. It's okay white America, you can admit it.

You should also probably have a likable coach, one that carries himself with dignity and seems to exude an integrity not often found in the slimy world of college coaching.

And let's not forget about academics!

That's right, every year we see people get behind the Ivy League champion (Harvard this year), or some prestigious school like Stanford and claim that these teams do it with true "student athletes."

These institutions aren't Kentucky or North Carolina, the kids on these teams actually go to class, and obviously never get ANY benefits from being basketball players. They just play for the love of the game!

So, what we've established is that your team needs to play hard, be fundamentally sound, have some scrappy white guys, be coached by a brilliant beacon of integrity, and live up to rigorous academic standards.

Of course, if you have all those things, we just hate you even more and call you Duke.

Without further ado, here are my completely personal and subjective rankings of the "likability" of the teams in the tournament, ranked from worst to first.

68. Indiana
Pictured: Noted clapper and incredibly unlikable Indiana coach Tom Crean. This is pretty much every photo taken of him ever.
I'm a Purdue alum, and Indiana grabbed the draw I wanted for my Boilers. The Hoosiers shouldn't even be in the tournament, but at least this will probably lead to a few more years of Tom Crean clapping the program into mediocrity.

67. Harvard

For the life of me I can not understand why anyone roots for these super elite/prestigious schools. No, Ivy League kids are not underdogs, they have everything! Ok, maybe they're underdogs to North Carolina, but this is about life!

66. Boise State
65. Ole Miss
64. Oklahoma State
63. Lafayette

Students from Boise, Ole Miss and Okie State probably don't know there's a basketball tournament going on, and Lafayette just rubs me the wrong way. You know their students, they're the ones that act all snooty about going to Lafayette, then get mad at you when you think their alma mater is in Lousiana. 

62. Ohio State
Pictured: Easy to hate and "scrappy" former Ohio State guard Aaron Craft, who just recently exhausted his 11 years of eligibility.
One of the most insufferable fan bases in all of sports, and they only care about basketball when the team is good. Unfortunately, Thad Matta has made that an annual occurrence lately, but never forget that this athletic department has more money than God and employs Urban Meyer. Those are enough reasons to hate O$U in everything.

61. VCU
60. Dayton
59. Davidson

Oh my God am I sick of hearing about the Atlantic 10. We get it, VCU and Dayton each got lucky one year and Davidson had Steph Curry. I still don't get why we have to welcome MULTIPLE bids from this conference every year.

58. Wofford
Pictured: Wofford's mascot... Ok, maybe I hate them less now.
If your alma mater loses to Wofford, you will never hear the end of it. Making matters worse is the fact that Wofford actually pulls off an upset or two each year, yet I have no idea where it is, nor will I Google it, because Wofford hasn't earned that.

57. LSU
56. Georgia
55. Arkansas

And don't get me started on the SEC. I put Ole Miss higher because I actually forgot they had a basketball team, but these three are just as bad. Seriously, this is the "competition" Kentucky had to face throughout the year? They don't even care about basketball at these schools.

54. Cincinnati

I don't know why, I've just never liked Cincinnati in anything. I always assume they've paid their players, which is really sad considering their lack of recent success.

53. Villanova
52. Georgetown
51. St. John's
50. Xavier
49. Providence
48. Butler

Pictured: Georgetown and Butler both have adorable bulldog mascots, but I still hate them.
And screw you "new" Big East for ruining everything about the "old" Big East, including the amazing Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden. What we're left with are a bunch of Catholic Schools that don't have D1 football programs and think that somehow makes them better than the rest of college basketball. Oh, and throw "new" Big East addition Butler in there because they've had more success in the last eight years than they deserve in a lifetime. Man I hate the Big East.

47. San Diego St.
46. Oregon
45. Utah

These schools are supposed to be occasionally good at football (with Oregon moving up from occasional status). I'm not supposed to care about them after February.

44. Louisville

Pictured: I... I don't even know.
I'm actually a little impressed I don't have the Cardinals lower. This is a slimy program in a terrible state, made relevant by a mercenary coach and Papa John's money. Maybe they don't fall quite as low because I love Rick Pitino's Miami Vice/Scarface/Saturday Night Fever suits.

43. NC State
42. Virginia

Non-traditional ACC fodder. We overrate the ACC so much each year that we annually talk ourselves into one of these teams making a Final Four run. It's sad, really.

41. Baylor
40. West Virginia
39. Oklahoma
38. Texas
37. Iowa State

More teams I shouldn't have to care about once football ends, but somehow they end up being good at basketball too. The invigoration of the Baylor athletics department is shady as hell, and Iowa State is the most boring brand in college sports.

36. Iowa

The Hawkeyes barely check in here because they're not Iowa State.

35. UCLA

How are they in the tournament? Wait, why were they a bubble team in the first place? This is a team with incredible history, a beautiful campus and a solid local recruiting base. The fact that they struggled so much in the mediocre Pac 12 makes me hate them even more.

34. Gonzaga
33. Northern Iowa
32. BYU

Pictured: Former "Great White Hope," Adam Morrison of Gonzaga.
So much scrappy whiteness going on with these three, but a lack of ACTUAL tournament success has me down on them. Seriously, how many times can we count a tournament win or two as a triumph for each of these schools? Make a Final Four and we'll talk. Only Tom Crean hangs Sweet 16 banners.

31. Maryland

Only in Obama's America could a bunch of crab cake eatin' sissies be in the same conference as our strong, corn-fed boys from the nation's Heartland! Maryland in the Big Ten is an abomination, and I won't stop until we have a Constitutional Amendment banning it!

30. Eastern Washington
29. UAB
28. Coastal Carolina
27. UC Irvine
26. Texas Southern

Congrats guys, I don't know nearly enough about any of your programs to hate you! I guess that's good enough to make the Top-30.

25. Wyoming
24. Hampton
23. North Florida
22. Buffalo
21. Stephen F. Austin

Pictured: North Florida mascot "Ozzie the Osprey" seriously creeping out the school's volleyball team.
I know only slightly more about these programs, but I know I don't hate them. Wyoming is a feel good story, Hampton is a prototypical underdog, I watched my sister graduate from law school in the North Florida gym (major brownie points), Buffalo is the only good team in its city and "Stone Cold" Stephen F. Austin is my favorite WWE/NCAA crossover.

20. Kentucky

Finally we land on the national title favorites, whom I hate far less than most other people. And why should I hate them? Because their coach probably cheats? So does everyone else. The fact is, every year he starts from scratch with some amazingly talented young players, and almost every year the Wildcats deliver. Finally, they have some experience this year, and look what happens. If you don't like what's going on at Kentucky, blame the NBA for the one-and-done rule, don't blame the program capitalizing on it.

Don't hate the playa, hate the game.

19. Georgia State
18. Robert Morris
17. Belmont
16. Valparaiso

I don't know this guy Robert Morris, but I like the cut of his jib. Also, you've gotta love Valpo's true scrappy whiteness, and Belmont just sounds like a nice place. Georgia State beat Florida in football, and I believe that was the game where two Gator linemen blocked each other, so they get mad props for that.

Ed. Note- That infamous Gator "self block" actually occurred against Georgia Southern, but we'll say close enough.

15. Michigan State

This is the time of year where we throw out the records and just pencil Tom Izzo's bunch into the Sweet 16. Some years that's pretty cool, and sometimes it's infuriating. Guess it just depends on my mood.

14. Arizona

I like Zona's inside game, and they're the one team in the Pac 12 I can stand.

13. SMU
12. Albany
11. Kansas

Pictured: Larry Brown back in his shortie-shorts hay day with Kansas.
Larry Brown's new and old teams (SMU & Kansas, respectively) sandwich a team that made it in on a thrilling buzzer-beater from a kid who lost his mom to cancer earlier this year. If you aren't rooting for Albany to upset Oklahoma in the first round, you don't have a heart.

10. Notre Dame

As much as I love to hate their football team, I must admit I've become a fan of Mike Brey's program. The fact that he's making basketball viable in South Bend is impressive in itself, but that he has done it against the "old" Big East and "new" ACC is flat-out incredible.

9. Manhattan

Pictured: My late dogter-in-law Jaspir.
You can't hate a team that is nicknamed the Jaspers. Here is a picture of my wife's late pup Jaspir (spelled with an "i," because she's a girl) to help you realize that. Go Jaspers/Jaspirs!

8. Northeastern

They may not be BU, but I'm always down to root for a small-time Boston team with no chance whatsoever of winning.

7. North Carolina

I've always been a sucker for Carolina's powder blue unis. I know the institution has zero academic integrity, and they've been underachieving on the court, but man are those shorts sweet.

6. Wichita State
Pictured: The Shocker.

Nuff said.

5. North Dakota State

Another school that I should only care about for football, but for some reason that makes the Bison all the more endearing to me. I don't know anything about this team, but I'm going to assume it's a bunch of slow, undersized white dudes bombing threes. Nothing wrong with that.

4. New Mexico State

Have you been watching "Better Call Saul?" You should be, it's great. I don't know, it just made me think of New Mexico. Anyways, if you haven't noticed, I like teams from the middle of nowhere.

3. Wisconsin
Pictured: Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky, whom you totally bought pot from that one time in college.
The Badgers have off the charts whiteness, and they always seem to have a dancing polar bear or two that can shoot it from the outside. This year's edition is center Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot senior who kinda looks like that creepy dude you blazed with a few times sophomore year.

And he is maybe the best hope anyone has of knocking off Kentucky…

2. Duke

Except for the Dukies! Why does everyone hate them so? They do everything right, play hard, are actually quite fun to watch, and have a great blend of solid four-year players, and one-and-done NBA talent. Haters gonna hate, but I like Duke.

1. Purdue
Pictured: The greatest train mascot in all the land. Boiler Up!!
And, of course, my alma mater takes the top spot. What, you thought I would put somebody else here?

Anyways, no matter who you love or hate, March Madness is always a crazy ride, so be prepared, because the insanity begins with the play-in games tonight. My money is on the Jaspers.


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