The absence of Kentucky in this year’s NCAA tournament means of course one thing -- no Ashley Judd appearances. Without the actress/future senator/Wildcats super fan in attendance, which school gets the honor of having the best celebrity fan?
We examined all 68 tournament teams, weeded out the wannabes, fair-weather fans and the no-names and determined our Sweet 16 of celebrity fans.
4. Duke: Alex Rodriguez
We know what you’re thinking. Of course A-Rod is a Duke fan. Our thoughts exactly. The unpopular Yankees star, er, whatever he is now, has been spotted at Blue Devils games over the years. We’re guessing he’s also a Lakers and Cowboys fan.
3. Louisville: Jennifer Lawrence
It’s hard to not to just give this whole thing from the jump to the newly minted Academy Award winner/everyone’s imaginary BFF. She’s so beloved right now, we think no one would argue with that even if she had never seen a minute of Cardinals ball in her life. Lucky for us, though, the Louisville native has been very vocal about her fandom for her hometown school. During last year’s “Hunger Games” promotional tour, Lawrence and her Kentucky-rooting co-star Josh Hutcherson made headlines for their friendly banter and trash talk during the NCAA tournament. But Lawrence isn’t just a casual U of L fan. Her ties to the school run deep as her grandfather was the Dean of Students and her mom was a cheerleader.
2. Memphis: Justin Timberlake
We apologize for continuing the Justin Timberlake complete overkill lately (he’s got an album to sell, people!), but the man loves his Memphis Tigers. He even closed his recent “Saturday Night Live” appearance rocking a Memphis T-shirt. He has been spotted at countless games over the years and rocking his apparel all over the world. Timberlake was even on hand at the team’s loss to Kansas in the 2008 national championship. Not that the game counts in the record books anymore. But if the game did in fact happen, he was there.
1. Cincinnati: Nick Lachey
Former reality star and boy bander Nick Lachey talks about Cincinnati ALL THE TIME. Quite frankly, it’s lists like this that keep him remotely relevant these days. A staple at Bearcats game, Lachey even performed the Big East’s 2011 tournament anthem, “Last One Standing.” “One Shining Moment” it was not. But rest assured the 98 Degrees-er will be in attendance for every game of Cincy’s tourney run.
4. Gonzaga: John Stockton
It’s not really fair to have John Stockton on this list, but considering he’s still widely regarded as the face of the program nearly 30 years after playing for the school and being the father to a current player (junior guard David Stockton), we felt as though we couldn’t have it any other way. The Bulldogs’ Selection Sunday shirts even honored the elder Stockton with the phrase: “short shorts started here.”
3. Ohio State: John Legend
The R&B singer is a lifelong Buckeyes fan, having grown up in nearby Springfield, Ohio. His piano that he writes most of his songs on is completely covered in Ohio State stickers and he claims to watch virtually every game, no matter where his touring and recording schedule may take him. We know he’s a big fan because he even refers to the team as “THE Ohio State University” on his Twitter feed. A move reserved solely for those who are OK with taking all the flack that inevitably comes with it.
2. Wisconsin: Andy North
The golfer and ESPN analyst has been said to “bleed extra red” based on his devotion to Wisconsin athletics. North even donated money for a new basketball court for the team in 2008. Frequently spotted at games, he reportedly rarely even misses A PRACTICE. To quote the great Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice. Not a game.
1. Belmont: Vince Gill
The legendary country singer is a devoted Belmont fan and has been a season-ticket holder since befriending head coach Rick Byrd in 1987. Gill’s loyalty and financial contributions to the school were rewarded with an honorary doctorate in 2011 and having a room named after him in the University Event Center. He has become perhaps as synonymous with the program as any player and his name is mentioned in virtually every feature about the team.
4. Villanova: Bradley Cooper
Despite graduating from rival Georgetown, Cooper stayed true to his Philadelphia roots and continued to root on his hometown Wildcats. His father, Charles, even played for the team in the late 1940s. Cooper was just nominated for an Oscar for his convincing turn as a Philly sports fanatic in “Silver Linings Playbook.” We’re just surprised he didn’t find a way to get a Kerry Kittles jersey into the film.
3. UCLA: Jaleel White
Turns out Steve Urkel (or more likely Stefan) is a die-hard Bruins fan. Having graduated from the school in 2001, post-Urkel, pre-uhhh, some job after “Family Matters,” White has remained loyal to his alma mater. Because the team plays in Los Angeles (and Lakers tickets are hard to come by for those on the B-list or below), celebrities are a common sight in the crowd, but it’s White who has been spotted courtside most consistently through the team’s ups and downs during recent years.
2. Akron: LeBron James
Reigning NBA MVP and Akron’s golden child famously skipped college and went straight to the Association. But that hasn’t stopped him from cheering for his hometown squad. From attending games to hosting events in the school’s gym to being close to the team’s coach, Keith Dambrot (who coached him in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary), LBJ is as fervent a Zips fan as any alum or former player. Dambrot even credits LeBron for much of the team’s recent recruiting success due to his connection to the program.
1. Kansas: Jason Sudeikis
Rock chalk Sudeikis. That sounded better in our heads. Regardless, the “Saturday Night Live” star is from Kansas and, like most from the state, worships the Jayhawks. He has even been known to work his team loyalty into various sketches. Although his attendance at games is nothing new, he has recently made news for doing so because he brought his now-fiancÚ Olivia Wilde. We’re guessing the male fans in attendance were very supportive of the newest Jayhawks fan.
4. UNLV: Flavor Flav
Public Enemy hype man and reality star Flava Flav loves his Runnin’ Rebels, claiming to be a fan of his adopted hometown’s team for years. During the 2011-2012 season, Flav was even spotted sitting in the student section supporting the team. Never leaving the house without his trusty kitchen-clock necklace, it’s good to know that UNLV will always know how much time is left on the clock. YEAH, BOY!
3. Marquette: Danny Pudi
Best known as Abed on “Community,” Danny Pudi is a huge Golden Eagles fan. Having graduated from the school in 2001, he told the alumni magazine that he was proud to have the (self-proclaimed) record for most appearances on the Bradley Center JumboTron from his days as a student. He even worked with the school’s athletic department during the 2010-2011 season to make a video for pregame introductions.
2. Temple: Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby has done his part for the Temple athletic department in sweatshirt sales alone. Having been a member of the school’s football and track teams in the early 1960s, Cosby has become a figurehead of sorts for the school for the past several decades. He has been spotted at basketball games over the years and is a close friend of former head coach John Chaney.
1. Indiana: John Mellencamp
Heartland hero and rocker John Mellencamp is proudly from a small town in Indiana. We’re basing that of course solely on the lyric, “I was born in a small town.” Sounds like enough evidence for us. But like every self-respecting Indiana resident, he loves basketball. He’s so dedicated to his Hoosiers, he has made significant financial contributions to the school and even has an athletic pavilion named after him.
Best of the rest
Best viral video fan: Lucas Phillips (Valparaiso)
Long before YouTube gave us viral sensations such as the Harlem Shake, Gagnam Style and that Justin Bieber kid, we had 2006’s “Crazy Frog Bros.” And the Internet tells us that the “kid in the red shirt” from the Crazy Frog Bros video is a Valpo alum and hoops fan. Here’s to hoping he and his brother, excuse me, Crazy Frog Bro, should really consider making a tournament edition of their hit video. Ring, ding, ding, ding, ding. Apologies for getting this in your head for the rest of the day.
Most powerful fan (who has too much important stuff to do than to attend basketball games): Arne Duncan (Harvard)
Arguably the most famous Harvard basketball player of all time not named Jeremy Lin, the Secretary of Education continues to cheer on his former team with his basketball-loving co-workers. You know, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, etc. Duncan definitely gets mentioned here solely for getting to participate in the most powerful bracket pool ever.
Best spouse-of-a-reality-star fan: Hank Baskett (New Mexico)
Go Kendra’s husband. The former NFL wide receiver, who is now known best for his reality show appearances, played for the Lobos football team and carries his passion for the school over to the hardwood as well. If Baskett isn’t too busy attending “Splash” practices with Kendra, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him sitting courtside at some point during the Lobos’ tourney run.
Best fan of Florida basketball named Tim Tebow: Tim Tebow (Florida)
We’re contractually obligated to include Tim Tebow whenever possible. As everyone on the planet knows, Tebow played at Florida and is a fan of all things Gators.
Most delusional fans: People who mistakenly read Northwestern State as Northwestern
This one is for the handful of Northwestern fans who don’t really follow college basketball and mistakenly think their team has made the tournament. Clearly, they really don’t follow their team.