If you’re a Minnesotan gearing up to watch the men’s college basketball Final Four on Saturday and next Monday, followed by the men’s college hockey Frozen Four the following weekend, chances are you’ll need a team to adopt.
No teams from the area made the Final Four, which instead is occupied by three teams out east (Villanova, Syracuse and North Carolina) and one down south (Oklahoma). The Frozen Four has two teams from the old WCHA — North Dakota and Denver — but no Minnesota schools. Boston College and Quinnipiac round out the Frozen Four. Here are some reasons to consider casting your allegiance in various directions:
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are the prohibitive favorite as the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four and arguably the most impressive overall team in the tournament so far. If you want to latch onto a likely winner, this is your best bet.
Oklahoma: The Sooners have Buddy Hield, who is not only worth watching all on his own but also figures to be a high lottery pick that the Timberwolves could possibly have a chance to draft if they so choose. Hield is the most dynamic player left standing and makes Oklahoma a good pick.
Syracuse: The Orange made it to the Final Four as a No. 10 seed, a rarity in college basketball. If you want to align yourself with an underdog — even one from a major conference — here’s your chance.
Villanova: This mostly anonymous group embodies the team concept better than any of the other four left in the mix. If you like a team built on grit instead of stars, this is your squad.
North Dakota: Fans of pretty much any Minnesota college hockey team might think it’s sacrilege to thrust their support behind the rival Fighting Hawks, but there is also an element of sports fandom that believes it’s best to cheer for the closest remaining team to keep it in the “family,” so to speak. If you are of that mind, you will also be heartened by this: North Dakota lists eight Minnesota natives on its roster, meaning if UND wins it all there figures to be a mighty contribution from the State of Hockey.
Denver: Then again, if you’re on the “anybody but North Dakota” bandwagon, cheer for the Pioneers. Denver faces UND in the semifinals and has a chance to send the Fighting Hawks home from the Frozen Four disappointed once again. This is North Dakota’s eighth Frozen Four appearance in the past 12 season. But in each of the previous even, UND failed to win a championship — and only once did the Fighting Hawks make it past the semifinals.
Quinnipiac: You might think of this ECAC school as an underdog, but the Bobcats were the No. 1 overall seed and have been in the NCAA tourney four consecutive years (with two Frozen Four berths in that time). They also have five Minnesotans on the roster.
Boston College: This is the seat of power in college hockey. The Eagles are making their 25th Frozen Four appearance and are in search of their fourth championship since 2008. This is a team and program that tends to rise to the occasion.