The NCAA tournament resumes today for the final 16 teams remaining. Sadly for the Utes, the madness is over. After a terrific season, Utah went up in flames last Saturday against Gonzaga. I’m sure there are many Utah fans that are ready to be done with basketball and move on to football, which is understandable. But for all the hoop heads out there who still have an interest in watching the conclusion of the tournament, a question of who to support may have come up. Well have no fear, we have a breakdown to help guide you on your remaining choices.
Do you "Back the Pac?"
If you are looking to support your fellow conference members, you’ve got only one choice, Oregon. The Ducks are the only Pac-12 team remaining in the NCAA tournament after seven teams initially made the field. In fact, they are the only Pac-12 team still alive in any tournament after Washington fell to San Diego State in the NIT on Monday. In a postseason where the quality of the Pac-12 is being questioned, Oregon is the conference's last hope.
If you like rooting for the underdog, there are two double digit seeded teams left and they are set to square off with each other on Friday night. 11th seeded Gonzaga and 10th seeded Syracuse are the closest things to a Cinderella left in the tournament. Of course with Syracuse being a traditional powerhouse in basketball it's hard to call them an underdog. Gonzaga used to be the ultimate underdog, a small unknown school with a funny name. Those days are long gone however as the Zags are competing in their 18th straight NCAA tournament. Considering how dominant Gonzaga was in their win against Utah, it might be nice to see the Zags go on a nice run to prove they are just really good and that Utah wasn't really overrated.
If you can't bare to watch another team your rooting for bow out of the tournament, better go with one of the favorites. According to Fivethirtyeight.com, Kansas, North Carolina and Virginia are the only teams left with a double digit percentage chance of winning the tournament. Kansas leads the group with a 21% chance to cut down the nets, while North Carolina is not far behind at 19% and Virginia currently has a 13% chance to win it all. No other team has more than a 7% chance.
Want to see someone new in the Final Four?
If you are tired of seeing the same old faces in the final four, consider giving one of these teams a try. Both Miami and Texas A&M are trying to make their first Final Four, while Iowa State has not been since 1944. Jim Larranga, Miami's head coach, is trying to reach the Final Four with his second team after having guided little old George Mason to the final weekend of the tournament back in 2006.
Were you "hot stuff" back in high school but haven't done anything noteworthy lately?
Feel free to pull for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish the remainder of the way. While this applies mostly to football, the Irish seem to get the benefit of the doubt from the NCAA in most everything, despite the fact that Notre Dame has not won a title in football since 1988 and hasn't been to a Final Four since 1978.
Want to see a program recapture their past glory?
Indiana, Villanova and Maryland are the teams for you. Indiana has one of the most storied basketball programs in the country with five national titles, including three under Bob Knight. Times have been lean in recent history however, with the Hoosiers last trip to the final four coming in 2002 when they lost in the title game. Villanova ranks eighth in all time tournament appearances with 35 and were one of the most memorable national champions ever in 1985, winning as an eight seed. Maryland had a great run under former head coach Gary Williams going to back to back Final Fours in the early 2000's, winning the whole thing in 2002.
Wish it were football season?
Oklahoma and Wisconsin are two schools better know for their performance on the gridiron, but both also have exceptional basketball programs. Lon Kruger has done an excellent job with the Sooners and also has one of the best players in college basketball in Buddy Hield. Wisconsin is in their first season without legendary coach Bo Ryan and a year removed from having star player Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Despite early season struggles, they have gelled together nicely down the stretch and are having an entertaining tournament run.
Lastly...Have you sold your soul to the devil?
Duke is your team.