The 2017 edition of the NCAA tournament superlatives plows fearlessly into hot-button topics such as: Which team has the nicest hair? Which mascot is the most existentially troubling? Which first-round site will induce the most intense fear of missing out? Which dad is the best dad?
Oh, and some stuff about basketball too.
Guy you want taking the last shot: Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Oregon lost some of its imposing aura when it lost shot-blocking maven Chris Boucher to a season-ending injury, but the Ducks still have plenty of pieces -- none better, or more likely to bury a cold-blooded game-winning shot, than guard Brooks. Don't forget, he scored 22 points to send Duke home in last year's Sweet 16.
Tourney debutante most likely to stick around: Northwestern
This is an easy one. North Dakota, Northern Kentucky, UC Davis, and Jacksonville State are all 15- or 16-seeds. Northwestern is a No. 8. Still, shoutouts to all the newbies: Enjoy your stay, however long it lasts.
Best mascot: Victor E. Viking
This category was initially intended to honor Lafitte the Instigator. Who? Does what? Lafitte the Instigator! He is an anthropomorphized alligator wearing what appears to be a smoking jacket. He's the official mascot of the New Orleans Privateers. With the possible exception of Big Red (the GOAT), Lafitte is the most oddly endearing mascot we've ever seen.
Correction: was. Just before we went to press, ESPN.com learned some terrible news: Before the start of the 2016-17 season, Lafitte was usurped by New Orleans' new mascot, Capt. BrUNO. (University of New Orleans = UNO, you see.) He seems pretty chill, we guess, yet we weep for Lafitte -- an icon of his time, gone too soon. Instigate on, you crazy diamond. Instigate on.
Given this sad turn, Northern Kentucky's Victor E. Viking -- the genuinely intimidating face of a team that calls itself the "Norse," which is just plain awesome in and of itself -- takes home the award.
No. 1 seed most likely to make it to Phoenix: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Doubting Gonzaga is kind of silly, but hey, go for it. That's your journey. Whatever you think of the Bulldogs' chances to cut down the nets, the logistics of their path to the Final Four -- a favorable second-round matchup (Vanderbilt or Northwestern) and then West Virginia/Notre Dame and Arizona lurking as their most likely competition in their region -- appear to set them up with the easiest theoretical road of any top seed. Throw in the relative lack of travel (Salt Lake City, San Jose and Phoenix) and Gonzaga fans should be thrilled. Anxious too, no doubt. But mostly thrilled.
Best dad: Doug Collins and LaVar Ball (tie)
Two different definitions of "best." Northwestern coach Chris Collins' father, longtime NBA coach (and ESPN analyst) Doug Collins, is the nation's premier ball of televised nerves during the Wildcats' games. (He ended a joint interview with his son on ESPN's post-bracket show Sunday by telling Chris that he loved him. It was really nice!) Lonzo Ball's father LaVar Ball, the man who insisted his son was better than Stephen Curry and later proclaimed he "would kill" Michael Jordan in one-on-one (in his "heyday"), is this field's best potential source for laughable-yet-somehow-endearing proclamations about his first born.
Best hair: VCU Rams
With extra credit for Jonathan Williams' tremendous beard.
Best test of hard-core SMU fandom: Spell Semi Ojeleye's full name
The Mustangs' star wing doesn't have the easiest name to pronounce (Shem-mie Oh-JUH-lay), even in its truncated form. The full article? Jesusemilore Talodabijesu Ojeleye. It's majestic.
Most underseeded team: Wichita State Shockers
This is becoming a thing. A year after being drastically underseeded and sent to the First Four in Dayton, the Shockers are a No. 10 seed playing against Dayton. On Selection Sunday, Wichita State's adjusted efficiency margin rank (per KenPom.com) -- eighth -- was higher than its NCAA tournament seed. This never happens.
Place to be this weekend: Indianapolis
The one upside to Wichita State's 10-spot? The Shockers are one win away from a second-round matchup with the team -- Kentucky -- that ended its unbeaten season in 2013-14 during the round of 32. But that first-round matchup with Dayton is a winner unto itself. And, bonus, Indy is one of the best hoops locales in the country. Bankers Life Fieldhouse is walkable to pretty much everything downtown, and you can get really good shrimp cocktail after you leave the arena. Done and done.
Second-most terrifying No. 10 seed: Oklahoma State
To say Jawun Evans & Co. flipped a switch after their 0-6 Big 12 start is to drastically downplay what happened next. It's more like the Cowboys installed a Tesla coil. No team has been better on the offensive end from Jan. 21 on. Oklahoma State then lost three straight, and thus their "hottest team in the country!" title in the lead-up to Selection Sunday. Its first-round opponent, Michigan, might deserve that honor, and sharing a seed line with Wichita State is bound to cast a long shadow. But the team under the direction of first-year coach Brad Underwood (formerly of Stephen F. Austin) has looked like a scary second-round matchup for any of the top-seeded national title contenders for weeks now. That didn't change on Sunday. The Cowboys could see Louisville in the second round and potentially Kansas in the Elite Eight.