For the fourth straight season, Northwestern will not participate in March Madness. In place of the Wildcats, our staffers chose one team they’ll be fanning for as long as they play this tourney.
Eli Karp: UConn
A weird pick, I know. But college basketball — and March — is better when UConn is good. The Huskies are in a muddled region, facing a quality 10-seed in Maryland to start, but the last time they were a 7-seed, Shabazz Napier happened. Maybe they’ll knock off Alabama before the Tide has a chance to win national titles in both football and men’s basketball this year. This is just the low, single-digit seed team that March chaos both demands and deserves.
Lia Assimakopoulos: San Diego State
If this year has taught me anything, it’s that anything can happen, and things normally don’t happen how you expect. Therefore, I have San Diego State, Winthrop and UC Santa Barbara in my Sweet 16 because why not?
Colin Kruse: University of California, Santa Barbara
For me, the two easy answers would be Virginia and Loyola. I am a childhood UVa fan who idolized Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon and effectively gave up on them after that disastrous night against UMBC, only to be proved wrong a year later. Maybe this could be my chance at redemption. Moreover, Sister Jean was the principal of my elementary school in Los Angeles back in the fifties, and I’ve previously established that I’m a huge advocate for Chicago’s basketball rivalries to become a thing. However, I’m spurning both the ‘Hoos and the Ramblers for the team I have going to the Sweet 16 in at least 8 of my 25 brackets: UCSB. The Gauchos are a popular upset pick. JaQuori McLaughlin is one of the most underrated stars in college basketball, while the front court of Amadou Sow and Miles Norris play with the efficiency and grit that could propel their squad into a deep tournament run. As a Southern California native without an affinity for either UCLA or USC, I’ll gladly choose the upstart Gauchos to back this March.
Mac Stone: Loyola-Chicago
It just has to be the Ramblers, right? This year’s team is arguably better than the one that made their cinderella team three years ago. They’re a fun team to watch and they’re the team closest to Evanston that’s in the tournament. Another plus is we could see them knock out Illinois in the second round, and nothing makes me happier than sad Illini fans. Plus, my dad went there for law school. Ramble On! (Is that something they say?)
Jacob Brown: Colgate
Sarah Effress: San Diego State
Who else to cheer for but the hometown team? Rage state, and go Aztecs.
Meredith Revsine: Illinois
As a Chicago native, it was easy for me to hop on the Illini bandwagon this season, especially when it became clear the ‘Cats were no longer in the running for the Tourney. If any Big Ten team can win it all this year, my money’s on Illinois.
Jack Izzo: Syracuse
As a San Diego native, part of me wants to pull for the Aztecs, who are objectively a good team. But the NCAA selection committee has forced my hand by pairing them up against my beloved Syracuse Orange in the first round. It should be a good game, and although Boeheim’s squad is definitely weaker this year, the zone always throws people off in March. On the plus side, if ‘Cuse loses, I’ll defect to the Aztecs and only be a little sad about it.
Nikesh Mehrotra: Ohio
They finished fifth in the MAC. They had eight games canceled over the course of their season. Their starting point guard had plans to become a journalism major at Central Florida before receiving a scholarship thanks to highlights posted on Twitter. The Bobcats have no business playing in this tournament, but I’m riding with them anyway. Ohio may be this year’s Cinderella, because the shoe certainly fits.
Kyle Leverone: Georgetown
If we put this piece out a day ago, I would have told you that Mount St. Mary’s was my team. But we didn’t, and they lost in the First Four, so now they’re not. Subsequently, I’m going with Georgetown — a team that has somehow made it out of the Big East with serious momentum. Growing up in D.C. my whole life and having lived through a horrible set of years with John Thompson III was demoralizing, so having miraculously made it into the tournament this year, I have them miraculously going to the Sweet Sixteen. But don’t quote me on that.
Claire Kuwana: Kansas
I know — this is not the Jayhawks’ year. There was a glimpse of hope after they beat Baylor, but being in the same division as Gonzaga does not bode well for Bill Self’s squad. Nonetheless, I have and will continue to root for Kansas to win every year. Rock Chalk.
Ben Chasen: Kansas
Similar feelings to Claire here. I’ve grown up a diehard Jayhawk fan and have lived through past tournament glories — 2012’s unexpected run to the National Championship, 2008’s actual title win (for which I had my piano lessons cancelled) on the back of Mario Chalmers’ legendary buzzer-beater to force OT — but not even a piece of me thinks KU will get past both Iowa and Gonzaga to make a 16th Final Four appearance. I’ve got them going out in the Sweet 16 to Luka Garza and the Hawkeyes. Still, March is madness, so I’ll be cheering for my ‘Hawks with every ounce in me, because if the past has taught me anything, it’s to never count out a Bill Self-coached team. Rock Chalk.