For those of us who have no emotional attachment to anything remaining in this tournament, we pull for the underdogs. It happens in most sports, and especially in the college basketball, where in arenas full of four different teams’ fanbases, all disattached onlookers blow up with excitement over the heavy favorite getting their asses edged by a pack of nobodies we didn’t even know existed. We love underdogs, which when you think about the literal interpretation of pulling for the underdog as opposed to the top dog, it’s pretty nasty of us.
And even though this year there’s not really any more of a shocking amount of lower seeded teams than most seasons, there’s more schools that aren’t necessarily household names, so we can get extra caught up in our pulling for the underdog. Me personally, as my bracket and chance at being able to afford full window tints for Nissan truck is out the window, I want nothing but the lower seed to win. I want nothing but like 11 and 10 seeds in the Final Four. In fact, if there’s something better than a 4th seed in the Elite 8 this weekend, I will be disappointed. This is the blow-it-up mentality. If I can’t win, screw everybody else as well, and basically that’s what makes us root for underdogs. We don’t give a damn about the little guys performing above their abilities. We just want to hate on the big guys and stick it to the man.
(Side note: “Underdog” by Sly & the Family Stone is a great-ass song, from when Sly started hitting his crazy man stage, leaving behind the hippie theatrics for freebase chaos. It works well at hyping you up to hate on the big guys aka The Man aka that which you wish you was because who don’t want to be rich?)
In these arenas, when the crowd gets riled up for an underdog, often times the energy adds to the adrenaline of the players on the floor and can boost the underdog into playing even more out of their minds. It also can help crush the dwindling spirit of the pre-ordained victors. This is the power of collective psychic energy, that we can all together think things and make them come to be with our stupid brains unified. Being drunk helps because it loosens the inhibitions against daring to discredit the Gods of Science. This collective thought can work in the building more easily, but also can be achieved on a larger level with all of our fat asses watching the TV together, although the electromagnetic frequencies of the television beams, especially now that it’s gone digital to optimize its zombiefying effects, can water that down.
Usually it is this second week where teams realize they have gone further than they hallucinated they could previously, so they don’t get up for the game as much as they did last weekend, leaving us with a Final Four of who-you-would’ve-expecteds. I do not support this. I am of the firm belief that if you could convince your brain you can fly, you could fly, even without the help of doing angel dust with R. Kelly (which might not end up well for you anyways). These lower regarded teams should hulk up and hype up and go beyond their most unbelievable daydream hallucinations and bring the tournament’s power structure down to it’s knees. Which won’t happen.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of pulling for the dog on the bottom, and thus the receiving end, of a canine sexual encounter analogy, here are five great underdogs for you to pull for during this second week of the NCAA tournament.
#1: THE NORTHERN IOWA PURPLE PANTHERS - Not only are they the team that upset Kansas and got everybody into this “YEAR OF THE UNDERDOGS!” thinking, but beyond that, if ever there was a multicultural Bad News Bears, it’s these guys. Their starting back court is an Iranian-American dude from Iowa City, Iowa, naturally, named Ali Farokhmanesh, and a Ghanaian-American dude from Oakdale, Minnesota, naturally, named Kwadzo Ahelegbe. On top of this, they have a big, brutarian ugly white dude with that hip hop skinhead bound to go to jail one day seven-foot tall Jordan Eglseder in the middle. And on top of all this, coming off the bench is a goofy-looking white dude with shaggy Eurotrash hair, lamb chop sideburns, and a bright green shamrock tattoo on his arm named Lucas O’Rear. And they wear purple uniforms, instead of the three thousand shades of dark blue or red you usually see. This is the wackiest of all teams left in the tournament. And the team they’re playing Friday in Michigan State just lost their star player to a torn Achilles Lauro. This is THE underdog to get behind. Well, not literally.
#2: THE CORNELL BIG RED MACHINE – These guys are the lowest seed left in the tournament at this point, and have won both their games handily thus far. It’s hard to get that complete underdog mentality behind a team full of Ivy League guys though, because no matter how tough it is for these Einsteins and Nordbergs on the basketball court, by virtue of their collegiate experience, they are far more The Man than a bunch of D-average one-and-doners going straight to the NBA check cashing joint could ever be regarded. These Cornell guys will one day own businesses and positions of power and attend Bohemian Grove parties and traffic human slaves from east Europe to Brazil and become upper echelon Freemasons. But for the sake of sports, they are an underdog, and heavily so, and play an old school form of whiteboy basketball that would make drunk Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers proud.
#3: THE SAINT MARY’S PAGAN GAELS – Saint Mary’s has a simple enough formula of a team. There is a big Egyptian-American dude named Omar Samhan who crushes dudes on the inside because he’s pretty nimble compared to the normal 7-foot oafuses you see in college basketball; and then the Gaels have a bunch of white dudes from Australia who shoot threes like crazy. It’s the old inside-outside game but with an international flair. They also have a guy coming off the bench named Clint Steidl who looks like he is 12. Seriously, when people foul him I expect him to start crying or stomping over to his mother or something. Saint Mary’s would be easier to root for if they had actual black jerseys instead of dark blue and the red trim was more ominous, being they use a strangely forboding font and are named after some sort of fallen angel. It should also be noted that Samhan is pretty close to Samhain, and that the guy has “BEAST” tattooed inside his lip, which suggests this team is empowered by Satan. That is fine by me. They should come out to “Reign in Blood” by Slayer, and say that the “blood” is a euphemism for three-point shots in their minds, and just embrace their devilry.
#4: THE STUPID WASHINGTON HUSKIES – By seeding, they are technically an underdog, but to be honest, they’re from the Pac-10 Conference, one of the six power broker insider elitist conferences in NCAA sports. But they are also the perfect example of why tournament basketball is so much fun. Before this national tournament even started, going into the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles earlier this month, Washington was one of a few teams considered bubble teams that might or might not make the at-large field. But, by winning three days in a row there to win the Pac-10 title, they guaranteed themselves a spot. And considering all they got was a #11 seed, it’s probably safe to assume they might not have made the final cut had they not got the automatic berth. So that win to play another day mentality carried them into this tournament, and it carried them past a pair of more highly regarded teams last weekend. Win and play another game. Lose and go home. It’s the essence of this tournament. Added benefit to this team is their leading scorer is a kid named Isaiah Thomas, who is not the son of the famous dude but rather a guy whose dad lost a bet against a Pistons fan back in the day and was forced to name his son Isaiah Thomas because of that. Solid.
#5: THE BATTLING BULLDOGS OF BUTLER UNIVERSITY – Okay, so they are a #5 seed and have been consistently ranked in the Top 25 all year long, so they couldn’t really be considered an underdog up to this point, having wore the home whites of the higher seed all the way through the first weekend of games. But come on, do you even know what state Butler is in? And what do they do there? Was it a legitimate Butler University originally where dudes got their Mr. Belvedere training on? Well I looked them up, and they play in an arena called Hinkle Fieldhouse, which sounds like some small college 1980s movie place. And they are located in Indianapolis, the largest most cleverly named city in the state of Indiana. Indiana is famous for it’s basketball, mostly because the majority white people state likes to distract attention from the rampant meth abuse, sexual deviations, and overall general West Virginia, just flatter vibe it has going on. You talk about a breeding ground for underdogs… 9 out of 10 people born in Indiana are doomed. If Butler can win a few more games and pull off the impossible of a national title game run, star whitey Gordon Hayward (Brownsburg, Indiana, REPRESENT!) could become the state’s new Larry Bird mythic basketball hero to help them forget how screwed their lives really are from time to time.
So there you have it – the sad sacks, shouldn’t-have-beens, and strange hodgepodges of great underdog stories left for you to root for in this NCAA tournament with your loser ass. I’m right there with you.