Just because the Syracuse Orange aren’t in the NCAA Tournament, it doesn’t mean we ignore the thing altogether. On top of the teams you’re picking in your own bracket, you may want to consider pulling for a few squads in lieu of the Orange.
There are some different schools of thought we can take here, so we spell out several below:
Rooting against ACC teams
We’re a pretty supportive bunch, but maybe you’re bitter that nine ACC squads made the tournament and we weren’t one of them. So at least in the first round, here’s who you should be pulling for:
Wisconsin (vs. Virginia Tech)
UNC-Wilmington (vs. Virginia)
Troy (vs. Duke)
Princeton (vs. Notre Dame)
Florida Gulf Coast (vs. Florida State)
Kansas State (vs. Wake Forest)
Texas Southern (vs. North Carolina)
Jacksonville State (vs. Louisville)
Michigan State (vs. Miami)
The above sets up a couple 2 vs. 15 upsets, and a 1 vs. 16, too. That would open up easier roads for Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas and Kentucky clearing out those better ACC opponents.
Rooting FOR ACC teams
As mentioned, we’re very supportive of one another, so let’s opt to be better conference members instead. Reverse the names above and just root for the ACC teams instead.
If you do that, you’ll end up with a Final Four of Duke, Virginia or Virginia Tech vs. Florida State vs. Notre Dame on one side. Then, Louisville or Miami vs. North Carolina or Wake Forest on the other.
In a similar vein, you could root for the ACC teams we’ve picked up big wins against. So Duke or Virginia make the Final Four vs. Florida State on one side. And then Miami and Wake Forest get there on the other.
Rooting against bubble teams
The reason Syracuse isn’t in -- other than its own lack of differentiating wins — is because other teams were put in ahead of them. Some of those include USC, Providence, Kansas State, Wake Forest and Xavier (if we want to just keep it to schools that grabbed 11 seeds).
Xavier’s up against Maryland, so that forces you to root for the Terps in round one. The other four are in First Four games, however, so pick your poison. USC did nothing of note since January, while Providence’s season boils down to a late hot streak. Wake and Kansas State had similar flaws as Syracuse.
Probably best to pick USC over Providence (for the Jason Hart connection), because they’re very likely to lose to SMU in round one. K-State’s probably less likely to beat Cincinnati, so root for them over the Deacs.
Blueblood hater’s ball
As is (nearly) always the case, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky and Louisville are top seeds. Toss Michigan State in as a potential annoyance as well if you’d like.
So if you want those teams to lose, you’re ultimately rooting FOR Villanova, Baylor, Gonzaga, Arizona, Butler, Oregon and Purdue to succeed. I’ve got a problem with most of those schools (save Purdue, really). Perhaps you don’t, though.
These are general groupings that could guide your petty decision-making, but plenty more exist out there, too. Rooting against Big East teams, or former tourney opponents, or teams that also wear orange could also work.
Have your own rooting guide for this tournament? Share yours below.