Who should you root for? NCAA National Championship game edition
Sometimes, a major national sporting event occurs, and you don't have any particular rooting interest. While many people are, indeed, fans of the Michigan Wolverines or Louisville Cardinals, far more people couldn't care less about either of them. To aid in the search for temporary fandom, we've compiled some facts about each team that might help you find something, however small, to latch on to.
Let's break it down:
Both programs have a storied history, with Michigan's being perhaps more infamous. The last Michigan championship occurred in 1989, but the more culturally prominent Michigan team is the Fab Five: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, and Jalen Rose. One of the greatest recruiting classes ever assembled, the Fab Five became well known for black socks, black sneakers, baggy gym shorts and an intense style of trash talk. The divisive yet revolutionary team ultimately failed to win a national championship, most memorably when Chris Webber called an illegal timeout in the final seconds of 1993 championship game against UNC. This is their first championship appearance since that game, so if you're a fan of redemption stories this is the team for you.
Meanwhile, the Louisville Cardinals last won the championship in 1986, but haven't made an appearance in the final game since then. Head coach Rick Pitino has his own weighty history, having coached more than seven different teams, at both the NBA and collegiate level. He coached the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats to victory, and should his Cardinals win tonight, he'd be the only head coach in NCAA men's basketball history to win a championship with two different teams.
We call that a "La Russa."
If you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and you don't want to put any effort into picking who to root for, Louisville is your choice. You don't even need to learn a new name.
The slightly more discerning St. Louis fan might want to side with the Wolverines, however, as they're the alma mater of current manager Mike Matheny. For alumni-conscious Cincinnati Reds fans, Hall of Fame SS Barry Larkin is also a former Wolverine.
Odds are, if you consider one of these two teams to be a rival, you already know it, so we won't waste time talking about Michigan State, Ohio State, University of Kentucky, Cincinnati, etc.
If, however, you're a Royals, Indians, Twins or White Sox fan, you're probably really sick of hearing about how great the teams from Michigan are. It's enough to have to face Miggy Cabrera and Justin Verlander all year. The reigning AL Central champs have a lot going for them right now, so Michigan fans don't really need this one.
Of the Wolverines roster, there are three players from Indiana, four from Michigan, three from Illinois, two from Ohio, a New Yorker, a Miamian and someone from Ontario.
For the Louisville Cardinals roster, there are four players from Kentucky, and then singular representatives from New York, Washington, Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Indiana, Australia and Senegal.
Essentially, Michigan is a much more regional team. All but three players come from cities relatively close to their University. Louisville, on the other hand, is much more widespread. Except for the four Kentucky-raised players, the rest come from all corners of the US and abroad.
If you're a Marlins or Blue Jays fan, consider rooting for Michigan. If your preferred team is the Braves or Mariners, why not cheer for your hometown kid? If you like Australian Rules Football, obviously you need to pick the Cardinals.
Trey Burke of Michigan is likely to be the only lottery pick that you'll be watching in tonight's game. While not as well regarded as Burke, shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is also projected to be an NBA talent, and power forward Mitch McGary has seen his stock rise in large part due to a stellar performance throughout the tournament.
For Louisville, center Gorgui Dieng will likely intrigue enough NBA teams to get picked in the first round, while point guard Russ Smith might make an appearance in the second round, should he declare for the draft.
The most NBA ready player on the floor will be Burke, and if that's the sort of thing you like, enjoy rooting for the Wolverines tonight.
Ultimately, this is just a guide. Don't stress -- you're only a fan for one night. If you're picking a team to cheer for, let us know who you chose and why in the comments below.
-- Dakota Gardner / MLB.com