March Madness is down to the final 16 teams -- and the final 16 uniforms. With the Sweet 16 tipping off Thursday, Uni Watch has ranked the uniforms that are still in play.
One note: Each team's ranking is based on the uniform it is expected to wear in the Sweet 16 (as determined by what the team has previously worn in the tournament and its home or road designation for this round). But most schools have several alternate uniforms at their disposal, so it's possible that other designs may appear.
With that proviso in mind, here are our Sweet 16 rankings -- ready, set, argue!
1. North Carolina
As good as it gets, right? The Carolina blue, the school name framing the chest number, the argyle trim on the sides -- that's how it's done. They'd be better off without the sublimated design on the back, which often looks like a sweat stain, but that's the only quibble here. Well done.
Nothing fancy here, but the Jayhawks' home whites are very easy on the eyes, with their signature Trajan font and just enough red trim to counterpoint the blue elements. One minor gripe, though: Having four patches on the shoulders -- NCAA, Adidas, Big 12, American flag -- seems like a bit much.
Adidas came up with "creative" March Madness designs for many of its schools, but Indiana, thankfully, escaped unscathed. The classics are classic for a reason, and it doesn't get much more classic than the Hoosiers' vertically arched lettering and double-striped piping on the collar, armholes and shorts. Bonus points, as always, for the candy-striped warm-up pants.
Classy look. You don't usually want to mix and match too many shades of blue, but the Wildcats' use of navy with light-blue trim on their uni numbers and shorts really works. And in a fortuitous bonus, the light-blue NCAA logo patch fits right into their color scheme.
Orange is a badly underrated uniform color, and it rarely has looked better than on Syracuse's home whites -- especially with "Orange" spelled out on the chest. The horizontal stripes on the shorts add a nice bit of flare, and the orange socks provide a firm grounding in the school's signature color.
Doesn't get much simpler than this. But some schools should keep it simple, and Duke definitely falls into that category. It ain't broke, and here's hoping they never fix it. Bonus points for Marshall Plumlee's mask, which adds visual interest.
Much like Syracuse, Virginia is a school that makes good use of orange. The front of the jersey looks particularly good, with the navy lettering countered by the orange number -- an excellent pairing. Too bad about the thick striping on the shoulders, though; it's an unnecessary element that keeps this uniform from being a truly upper-echelon design.
Little things go a long way for Gonzaga: The red inlining on the white letters add punch, and the bulldog logo on the shorts is irresistible. Unfortunately, this is another uniform that's dragged down a bit by heavy-handed shoulder striping.
The Terps' current road uni keeps the Maryland flag-based imagery to a minimum, which is good news, as a little goes a long way. In fact, this is a surprisingly restrained design, with no side panels on the jersey or striping on the shorts. And the bi-colored typographic treatment -- gold for the lettering, white for the numbers -- works really well. Don't look now, but this is a team that has sort of snuck up on aesthetic respectability.
Sometimes a fairly little thing can tie a design together. In Oklahoma's case, it's the crossed stripes at the base of the shorts, an ingeniously simple design element that adds some much-needed pizzazz to an otherwise straightforward uniform.
11. Iowa State
Iowa State is so close to having a top-shelf uniform. The vertically arched lettering is nice, but it would look better without Nike's gimmicky custom typeface, which has too many little talons and breaks. The swoop of the stripes down the shorts looks sharp, but the matching stripes on the jersey are too much (compare the heavy stripes to the thinner ones used by Oklahoma). And more so than any other team on this list, Iowa State's rear-jersey design really looks like a big perspiration splotch.
12. Notre Dame
The Irish have often worn their gold uniforms -- a good look -- at home this season. But for the tournament, they've been going with their standard white ensemble, which is a total dud. The chest lettering is so small that it's barely legible, and the whole package feels rote. Here's hoping they break out the gold uni, in which case they'd definitely move higher in these rankings.
When Baylor was upset by Yale, that left Oregon as the one remaining team in the tournament wearing a neon highlighter-toned color -- and that's still one too many. Or actually two too many, because the Ducks have already worn two different neon sets in the tournament: one with the old-style "Oregon" lettering (an awful design -- the old-style font doesn't work with the school's hyper-modern image) and one with the contemporary "Fighting Ducks" lettering (much better, relatively speaking, but the base color is still an eyesore). This is Oregon we're talking about, so there's always the chance they could switch to wearing white or come out wearing something completely new. Stay tuned.
Green, orange and white are such a great color combination. Too bad they're used to such poor effect on the new March Madness uni set that Adidas prepared for the Hurricanes. It's hard to say which is worse -- the orange shoulder harness or the "grass skirt" striping on the shorts. A real stinker.
Under Armour will be taking over from Adidas as Wisconsin's outfitter later this year, but Adidas left a little reminder for the Badgers in the form of a "special" March Madness uni with a reprise of the much-hated cummerbund-style stripes from last March. Brutal.
16. Texas A&M
Which is the bigger miracle: the Aggies' comeback against Northern Iowa or how bad their uniforms are? It's Adidas' standard March Madness template, complete with the shoulder harness and the cummerbund-style shorts, but the Aggies' beveled type font makes it even worse. So far, they've only worn the white version this postseason, but they're the lower seed in their Sweet 16 matchup against Oklahoma, so they'll be breaking out the maroon road set, which should look queasily familiar to anyone who remembers what the team wore last March. Also, the Aggies were docked a few points for beating Northern Iowa, which is Uni Watch's favorite team, for obvious reasons.
Paul Lukas is hoping for a North Carolina-Oregon title game, if only because it would be the perfect matchup of old-school and new-school uniform styles. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.