A part of me was almost rooting for the Indiana Hoosiers the other night. While conference solidarity is not high on my list of, "reasons to root for a basketball team," at least a little bit of my soul was cheering on the Candy Stripes. I mean, at least a little bit of that happened to follow the fact that they were up against the
somewhat scandalous cheating menace of the North Carolina Tar Heels led by none other than one Coach Roy Williams who I do not have any love for dating back to my times rooting against said man in the Big XII. However, the only cheers I could muster up were, "Oh, wouldn't it be nice if the Tar Heels missed a shot tonight?"
And no, I was not rooting for the Wisconsin Badgers. I was laughing at Wisconsin. I do not hate them like my brethren from Wisconsin or Iowa, but let's be honest, nobody wanted that team to keep going except for Wisconsin fans. The meltdown against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish was enough to satiate my bloodthirst for soul-crushing loss, even though it meant - and this is tough - rooting for Notre Dame. But hey, even they are a little B1G these days.
With all this said, what are Big Ten fans supposed to do with this Final Four?
As opposed to football where we can generally all get behind rooting against someone from the SEC like the good Northerners we are, basketball has a little more nuance. There are ample reasons to root against someone like the Tar Heels, but are there reasons to root for someone like the Syracuse Orange? I was not sure myself, so I have taken on the challenge to ask, "How B1G are they?" of each of the Final Four contestants. My criteria is school size, redness of their team colors - because that seems to be a criteria these days, AAU membership (LOL Nebraska), Midwesterness, and how they play basketball via the eye test. Hopefully this will give you all a guide to how to root for the rest of the tournament.
Conference: Big East
School Enrollment: 10,735
Team Colors: Not red or variations on red
B1G Play: Well, they like to shoot threes and play suffocating defense. That's sorta B1G.
Midwesterness: North Philly does not seem very Midwest to me
Summary: The smallest Big Ten school is Northwestern at around 21,000 students. So Villanova is definitely not a B1G sized school, which puts it at a disadvantage from the get go. Add to that the fact that the Wildcats play basketball in Philadelphia, and Coach Jay Wright's team is basically playing itself out of B1G contention. While I would argue that from the arbitrary, 'eye test' that we give teams, the Wildcats do seem to play a style somewhat similar to Michigan State in that they suffocate you on defense and then shoot lights out in transition and on the other end. The lack of AAU membership and/or Red colors makes me think this isn't a very B1G team, though. We're sticking with, "Not Very B1G" for the Wildcats.
Conference: Big XII
School Enrollment: 21,844
Team Colors: Sorta red
B1G Play: A ton of offense and 'meh' defense makes me think this is not a very B1G team, but then again, did you see Michigan play basketball this year?
Midwesterness: Norman, Oklahoma is probably more B1G than Philadelphia, so there's that.
Summary: Lon Kruger's team is basically Buddy Hield shooting lights out and hope for the best everywhere else. I'm not saying that's a bad approach, but I'm also not sure how B1G that is either. As noted above, Oklahoma suffers a bit from AAU affiliation, but they are on the lower limits of how large the student body numbers are in the B1G, and playing in a conference who also does not know how many members it has is a plus in my book. The Big XII will always feel like a kindred spirit to the B1G in that they are different looks at the Midwest, and so that's another plus. Add in some red and come on, why aren't we all rooting for the Sooners? Well, some of that goes back to them not playing like a B1G team really. At least I don't feel like they do. I don't know... Let's give them a "B1G-ish Seal of Approval."
School Enrollment: 21,492
AAU: Well, like Nebraska, they were... but now they are not
Team Colors: Not red
B1G Play: I have not watched the Orange this year enough to say what they are doing. Beating teams in the tournament no one expected? Yeah, that's the stuff... I'm not sure B1G teams do that, though.
Midwesterness: Well, Rutgers is B1G, and if Rutgers is B1G, Syracuse is B1G.
Summary: I don't like Jim Boeheim. Well, rather, I am rather apathetic to him. That's probably a more appropriate thought. That said, he seems to fit in well with B1G coaches and if he was part of our conference, I'd be less apathetic? Maybe. Anyhow, Syracuse is also on that fringe of B1G sized school, which is a plus in my box, and they are the spiritual AAU brother to Nebraska, which is a huge plus in my box. Kicked out of the AAU solidarity my Orange bros! While there is a knock for not having a red team color, I'm awarding bonus points for basically being Illinois, which means you've overcome quite a few odds to get here. Oh, and like I said before, Syracuse is basically as B1G as Rutgers, so I have to award them some Midwesterness too. We'll say, "At Least as B1G as Rutgers" for your award.
North Carolina Tar Heels
School Enrollment: 29,135
Team Colors: Iconic and all, but no... not red
B1G Play: I would not call North Carolina a B1G team. They are sort of the epitome of an ACC team, no?
Midwesterness: Unless they are stealing Midwest kids, North Carolina is about as B1G as the rest of the South... which is not very B1G
Summary: Look, I'm not going to sit here and try and convince you the Tar Heels are B1G. Mostly because I do not know if any of you would actually root for North Carolina anyways. I do remember growing up and having everyone be all like, "Oh man, I LOOOOVE the Tar Heels," but I'm pretty sure they just loved the hat. People love that baby blue. Anyhow, let's just all agree that Roy Williams is a cheating cheater face and root for anyone else. Cool? Cool.
I guess you could say that none of these teams are very B1G, but they are all still in it with a championship on the line, so of course they are not very B1G (yes I realize the B1G usually has a team left in the Final Four and no, it does not change that we also do not have a championship in basketball in a very long time so deal with my comments). If you want to root for a team that seems kinda B1G, go for either Syracuse or Oklahoma. If you want to root for Villanova because they are fun to watch? Root for Villanova because they are fun to watch. If you want to root for the Tar Heels, I probably cannot stop you, but just know that is so very Un-B1G of you. Just like, don't do it.