Alright. It’s Saturday night. You’re at the bar, or a pregame, or this thing your coworker’s been bugging you about for weeks. Whatever, you’re out. And the Final Four games are on. You begin watching, casually. You’re not into it, but you’re bored. And there’s this person next to you. Wait, this person’s really into it. And this person’s cute. Really cute. And blatantly single, however that works. So are you, in this situation. To prove your worth to this person, you must demonstrate at least a baseline of college basketball knowledge. Don’t freak out. Excuse yourself for a moment, take five minutes to read this article, and when you return, you’ll know literally everything there is to know about the four remaining teams in the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy your new relationship.
University of Wisconsin — Madison
Coach: Bo Ryan.
Person you can pretend is the coach: Bo Bice.
Mascot description and cuteness level: Bucky, an anthropomorphic badger who dons a red and white striped sweater on his torso and a permanent grimace on his face, enjoys disparaging other mascots and doing pushups. He earns a mere 4 on the 10-point cuteness scale, because he’s kind of a dickhead. Also, the University of Wisconsin would like me to note that Bucky is not a real badger and that there is indeed a human person inside of him.
Average player salary: $0*.
School’s academic rating: U.S. News ranks the University of Wisconsin 41st among national universities. However, my uncle Bill, who graduated from Wisconsin in 1981, ranks the Badgers 4th among universities he’s heard of.
Past tournament success: The Badgers claim to have won the NCAA Championship in 1941. However, the suspiciously convenient Great Wisconsin Fire of 1942 destroyed all documented history of the Championship run ever occurring. Conveniently, there is also no documented history of the Great Wisconsin Fire of 1942.
Team strategy: Slowing down the tempo, taking fewer shots, limiting the opponent’s possessions with strong rebounding, and generally taking the excitement out of the game.
Player you should watch out for: Frank Kaminsky, the 21 year-old 7-footer who came to be an offensive force through fancy footwork, finesse shooting, and being polite to the referees. Before rooting against the Badgers, please consider that Frank is Wisconsin’s best player and he looks like this. We are ALL Frank Kaminsky this weekend. Remember that.
Player you don’t really have to watch out for: Evan Anderson, a Junior who averages 0.4 points, 0.2 rebounds, and 2.6 minutes played per game. I don’t project Anderson to have a big Final Four weekend, but hey, I’m no expert.
Where I had them losing in my bracket: In the Round of 32 to Oregon. This didn’t end up happening.
Why they’ll win the whole thing: When Wisconsin controls the pace of play and shoots efficiently, they’re tough to beat.
Why they’ll screw it all up: The teams they will be playing are much bigger, faster, and stronger than they are.
University of Kentucky
Coach: John Calipari.
Person you can pretend is the coach: Ivan the Terrible.
Mascot description and cuteness level: Kentucky’s mascot is a nameless Wildcat operated by a presumably-named student. The wildcat is the fourth most popular mascot in Division 1 athletics and unoriginality gets you 0 cuteness points.
Average player salary: $0*.
School’s academic ranking: U.S. News ranks the University of Kentucky 119th among national universities. However, my uncle Bill, who visited Kentucky in 1979, ranks the Wildcats 6th among universities he’s heard of.
Past tournament success: The Wildcats have reached the Final Four pretty much every year since 1942.
Team strategy: Being quicker, stronger, more agile, taller, and better conditioned than everyone else.
Player you should watch out for: Julius Randle, the freakishly athletic, practically unguardable 19 year-old. At the beginning of this season, Randle received criticism for being immature. Everyone seemed to come down, however, when Julius announced at a press conference, “I’m 19, guys.”
Player you don’t really have to watch out for: Brian Long, a Junior who only got to play in one game this year. Sadly, Long recorded zero points, zero rebounds, and zero assists. In his defense, he was only in there for one minute.
Where I had them losing in my bracket: In the Round of 64 to Kansas State. This didn’t end up happening.
Why they’ll win the whole thing: Umm, sorry, I’m forgetting the word. Uh, it starts with ’t,’ and it means like, just being good — oh! Talent.
Why they’ll screw it all up: Youth, inexperience, and if praying works.
University of Florida
Coach: Billy Donovan.
Person you can pretend is the coach: Ray Donovan, the titular protagonist in the unsuccessful HBO drama that your weird friend from down the hall watched. I’ve never seen the show, but the thought of Ray Donovan as a college basketball coach makes me laugh nonetheless.
Mascot description and cuteness level: Florida has two official mascots, Albert and Alberta Gator. The couple wears plush costumes and are well-liked. In 2007, they were ranked #1 in the Sports Illustrated Mascot Power Rankings. Gators aren’t normally cute, but this pair gets an 8 for promoting female mascot rights.
Average player salary: $0*.
School’s academic ranking: U.S. News ranks the University of Florida 49th among national universities. However, my uncle Bill, who got rejected from Florida in 1977, ranks the Gators lower than most universities he’s never even heard of.
Past tournament success: The Gators won the National Championship in 2006 and then again in 2007. The current group of seniors has been to the Elite Eight every year they’ve been with the team. At just 48 years old, Billy Donovan has been to the Final Four four times. So they’re due for a loss? I don’t know — I haven’t figured out college basketball betting yet.
Team strategy: Forcing freshman to stay until their senior year to breed a unique edge in experience.
Player you should watch out for: Scottie Wilbekin, the senior guard and SEC Player of the Year who has steadily improved over the course of his four years with Florida. He is not flashy or electric or exciting or anything, but I keep hearing that he’s good.
Player you don’t really have to watch out for: Joakim Noah. Although Noah is an elite NBA player and has previously won two National Championships with Florida, it is doubtful his legacy will have an impact this weekend.
Where I had them losing in my bracket: In the Sweet 16 to UCLA. This didn’t end up happening.
Why they’ll win the whole thing: They have been the best team in the country all year and sometimes it pays to have the best coaching, the most experience, and the strongest defense.
Why they’ll screw it all up: Nothing that’s supposed to happen ever really happens in college basketball.
University Of Connecticut
Coach: Kevin Ollie.
Person you can pretend is the coach: Rolie Polie Olie.
Mascot description and cuteness level: UConn has one mascot, Jonathan the Husky, but he comes in two separate manifestations: as a costumed human and as a real-life dog. They are each simple and cute, with a rich history in the university’s lore. 10 points on the cute scale because omg such doge!
Average player salary: $0*.
School’s academic ranking: U.S. News ranks the University of Connecticut 57th among national universities. However, my uncle Bill has never even heard of them.
Past tournament success: Although the Huskies have been a team since 1901, they didn’t reach the Final Four until 1999, when they reportedly “started trying.” But everyone knows the “started trying” thing is just an annoying excuse and that they just weren’t good for 98 years. Can you believe that? They’re so embarrassed about it they’ve resorted to lying? Such a shame.
Team strategy: Having Shabazz Napier on the team.
Player you should watch out for: Yeah, Shabazz. He’s teaching a course in Being Kemba Walker.
Player you don’t really have to watch out for: My uncle Bill, who hasn’t beaten me in a game of H-O-R-S-E since 2002.
Where I had them losing in my bracket: In the Round of 64 to St. Joseph’s. This didn’t end up happening.
Why they’ll win the whole thing: I’m tempted to just say ‘Shabazz Napier’ again. Sure, if UConn’s going to leave this weekend with a National Championship, it will require superlative coaching and impenetrable defensive play, too. But I mean, it’ll mainly be Shabazz.
Why they’ll screw it all up: They’re just not as good as Florida, Wisconsin, and Kentucky.
*A grand total of seven of these dudes from all four times combined will get signed to the NBA and go on to make about a thousand times what you will in the first year you’re both out of college.