I know we're all excited for tomorrow's game against Michigan St. and the two hours that UCLA plays in the tournament are always the highlight of anyone's first round. That said, the game lasts two hours. That's a mere two hours out of 24 hours of thrilling college basketball in just the first round alone. There's a ton of other basketball going on and a ton of other basketball we'll all be watching. We haven't even gotten into the next rounds either when there's more and more basketball and hopefully more and more Bruins.
So, with all this non-Bruin basketball going on we need a few other teams to root for. Naturally, most people root for upsets and then their brackets. Sometimes that is reversed and brackets take precedence over upsets (although I don't condone that because in March upsets are always most important). On top of that, I think there are always some teams that fan bases tend to root for. This partiality to certain teams can be for several different reasons, but it is there so who can Bruins root for this March? Let's run down a list.
Michigan Wolverines- Whether it be football or basketball or any other sport at all, I think we've all agreed that there is a certain affinity for Michigan in UCLA circles. There are a lot of similarities between the two schools for one. Both are high end academic institutions that value academics. Both are also large public universities and the color schemes are even similar. The fans are fantastic over in Ann Arbor and they too are similar to Bruin fans. Add in that the guys over at Maize n Brew are awesome with an awesome site and gave us the idea for this post and it's easy to see why we would be pulling for the Wolverines. We'll forgive John Beilein for confusing UCLA with his 1-3-1 for a few years too because their starting point guard, Darius Morris, is a local LA kid who played on the same high school team as Anthony Stover.
Purdue Boilermakers- We'll stick with the Big Ten here and pull for another school from the Pac-10's historic rival conference in Purdue. The connection with the Boilermakers should be obvious to any Bruin out there. Long before John R. Wooden became Coach, he was a player at Purdue and an All-American at that. The Indiana native stayed in-state for college and started his long and storied basketball legacy with the Boilermakers before a few stops landed him in Westwood. If that's not enough (and it is) Purdue gets credit for suspending Kelsey Barlow for conduct detrimental to the team right before the tournament instead of making him run laps and for playing well this year despite losing Robbie Hummel to an injury for the second straight year. Oh yeah, they might also play those guys from across town in the second round.
Belmont Bruins- It's a little but unfortunate that they're playing Wisconsin in the first round because that is a school I have a lot of respect for, really like and usually root for, but Belmont gets the edge as a team to root for here for a few reasons. One is their team name. It's really easy to root for a team nicknamed the Bruins and yelling "go Bruins" feels right even if the four letters aren't across the teams chest. Second, this is an upset pick with the 13 seed against the four seed and not just any upset. The Bruins are one of the top small schools in the country this year who have been pasting teams and were underseeded, in my opinion. Third, I picked this upset and like to be right, but yeah, it's the Bruins thing so come on Belmont!
VCU Rams- This is part of those First Four games being played tonight and truthfully, there isn't a lot that makes us want to say "go VCU." There is only one thing that makes us Rams fans, but it's a big one. Check out who they play. That is all and more than enough to have us scavenging for black, gold and white apparel.
Georgetown Hoyas- Once again, caring about academics helps. Georgetown, step forward. The Hoyas care about that whole learning thing so they get a major bump on that alone. They're also a historic team with some incredible players and a legendary coach in John Thompson. Now, the Hoyas are led by his son, but it is still a classy program that is well run and plays hard. They finished the season poorly, but hopefully the tournament gets them going again. In 2007, the Hoyas made it to the Final Four and their fans were incredibly cool and fun so that's another major plus. Toss in the DC ties of N, DC and the Hoya ties for our own bruinhoya and Georgetown is a team to root for. They also will play the Trojans on Friday if VCU can't get the job done tonight so a big "let's go" for the Hoyas.
Princeton Tigers- There are a three things that make Princeton a good team to root for. One is that it's any Ivy League school that cares about academics, which is unfortunately rare in modern college basketball. Two is that they qualified for the tournament with an improbable buzzer beater in the league's championship game. Third is that they really need a new NCAA tournament highlight so they can stop playing highlights of 1996.
Syracuse Orange- This one is purely personal and I couldn't tell you why, but I've always had a soft spot for Syracuse. Maybe it's because they're unusual in playing that 2-3 zone all game, every game. Maybe it's because they can pack 20,000+ for every game and even 30,000+ for some games into the Carrier Dome. The real reason is probably because their mascot is an awesome big orange ball.
So that's it from me. Seven teams out of 68 that I'll be rooting for along with my upsets and bracket (in that order!) and of course UCLA takes precedence over anything else so we'll make it eight out of 68 to root for. Who are the rest of you pulling for as we get ready for the best time of the year?