There's a reason to hate each of the 65 teams in this year's NCAA tournament. (Yes, even you, Alabama A&M —bless your little heart!) Kansas always chokes in big games. LSU's uniforms are too purple. North Carolina State's coach is ugly. Your ex-girlfriend went to Utah State.
"Sports Nut" understands that the casual fan doesn't have time to figure out which schools are just mildly annoying and which are fatally flawed. For the six of you who don't choose sides based on which team you bet on, here are our choices for the 11 most despicable, loathsome, vile institutions in the 2005 tourney. If you keep snapping your fingers, they'll all lose in the first round. (Disclaimer: Loss guarantee does not apply to teams that play each other in the first round.)
Duke University, Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 1 in Austin Region Led by sore-losing, ref-haranguing coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has long been a hotbed of whininess, but junior J.J. Redick is the first Blue Devil to publicly elevate it to an art form. In recent profiles in Sports Illustrated, on ESPN, and probably in Cat Fancy, the whey-faced shooting guard revealed that when abuse from opposing fans becomes too heavy, he escapes by composing verse. "No bandage can cover my scars/ It's hard living a life behind invisible bars," he writes in one tear-stained stanza.
When the non-existent bars start closing in and the bandage-defying scars get itchy, J.J. need only look down the bench to find kindred souls. Blue Devil assistant coaches Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins understand. They too had crew cuts and held their wrists perpendicular to the ground after every made basket.
While players like Luol Deng, Elton Brand, and Corey Maggette go on to demi-stardom in the NBA, it's the scrappy, high-strung little guards who come back to Coach K's side to form a living endowment of faux defensive intensity. Around 2008—when pro defenders have finished demonstrating that Redick can't deploy his robotically perfect shooting stroke when he's guarded—look for the once-great collegian to take his curdled hoop dreams back to Durham and join them. Don't worry, young fella. There will always be a clipboard for you at the end of the bench at Cameron Indoor Stadium. And it will say "J.J." in big, blue, puffy letters.—Josh Levin
University of Kentucky, Southeastern Conference, No. 2 in Austin Region Why should you pull against Kentucky? The long, racist legacy of famed coach Adolph Rupp. The legions of diehards from the hills who have never been on campus. The metronomic pummeling of the football-obsessed, no-name Southeastern Conference—quick, name a player on any other team. The clichéd calls for head coach Tubby Smith's head after every loss, no matter how meaningless. The continued worship of Rick Pitino, even though he now runs the hated Louisville Cardinals. Tubby's death stare after every turnover and dumb shot, an affectation that inspires Dick Vitale to nominate him for the Pantheon of Great Coaches because of his "intensity."
But all that's only mildly nauseating compared to the most repulsive part of UK basketball: Ashley Judd, superfan. It's one thing for celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee to flaunt their wealth courtside during a pro game. But watching the aging ingénue don pigtails to prove she can relate to the commoners of the commonwealth is just sad. First, she punishes us with dreck like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Now, she pollutes UK telecasts because TV directors can't resist endless cutaways of Wynonna's sister. Yeah, yeah, she knows her basketball. She also dated Michael Bolton. Let's not go nuts glorifying her critical reasoning skills.
If Kentucky wins the title, Judd will probably try to shoehorn Tubby Smith into the role of Big Daddy in her next dinner-theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Let's hope Duke or Syracuse eliminates Chuck Hayes and Co. If the Wildcats go all the way, my stomach might never recover.—Robert Weintraub
Syracuse University, Big East Conference, No. 4 in Austin Region
Jim Boeheim is a single-minded dweeb. If you cut open his shiny, bald skull and looked at his brain under a microscope, you would see that the neurons are permanently frozen in a 2-3 zone. Every day at breakfast, while he reads the morning papers, he sucks the air out of two fresh basketballs using a custom-made straw. Then he bathes in basketball holy water, hauled into his home from wells in Springfield, Mass. Afterward, he flosses his teeth with a basketball net. He smiles in the mirror, and his mouth squeaks like a gym. His false teeth are carved from the same wood as the floor of the Carrier Dome.