Posted: Saturday March 17, 2012 9:13AM ; Updated: Saturday March 17, 2012 12:34PM
Andy Staples
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Marquette, Murray State prep for 2012 NCAA tournament hair battle

Story Highlights

Saturday's Marquette-Murray State matchup features an epic battle of hairstyles

Marquette's Jae Crowder is far from intimidated by Ed Daniel's impressive afro

Daniel's afro has seemingly taken on a life of its own and become a phenomenon

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Notre Dame's Adrian Dantley sported muttonchops.

Memphis State forward Keith Lee took the jheri curl to the Final Four.

Florida's Dwayne Schintzius rocked a lobster mullet in three different brackets.

Stanford's Josh Childress brought back the manicured afro.

Gonzaga guard Adam Morrison's mop framed his 'stache perfectly.

Tennessee's Scotty Hopson didn't last long, but his high-top fade endures.

Plenty of quality hairstyles have taken the court in the NCAA tournament, but Saturday's Murray State-Marquette game may feature the best head-to-head matchup in Big Dance history. The Golden Eagles may have a better seed than the Racers, but Marquette's Jae Crowder knows his dreadlocks -- which dangle to the middle of the 6-foot-6 forward's back -- will be an overwhelming underdog to Murray State forward Ed Daniel's afro.

It's tough to compete with a 'do that has its own Twitter feed and hashtag (#EdFro). Still, Crowder doesn't quite understand why Daniel's fro has such a seemingly huge advantage. Asked who had the best hair in the matchup, Crowder barely even considered it a contest. "Me," he said.

Daniel said he hasn't shortened his hair since May 2011. He used to get it braided before every game, but he had trouble with his braids before the Racers faced Western Kentucky on Dec. 1. Murray State coach Steve Prohm didn't want Daniel to waste more time on his hair, so Prohm told Daniel to put on a headband and turn himself into a modern-day Kentucky Colonel.

Daniel, a 6-7, 215-pounder who usually must guard a larger opponent, suddenly wasn't so undersized. In fact, Daniel is living proof that the classic film Fletch was mathematically correct regarding the height boost an afro can give a player. How tall is Daniel with his hair in full Ben Wallace mode? "Probably like 6-11," Daniel said.

That doesn't scare Crowder. The Big East player of the year has far more experience curating a unique coiffure. "I've been doing this for a long time," Crowder said. How long? "Going on 10 years," he said.

In other words, Crowder hasn't had his hair cut since he was 11. He said he didn't make any sort of conscious choice to forgo clippers and scissors until after he graduated from high school. Crowder's older brother, Davarius, also spent years cultivating a mountain of tendrils atop his head, but Davarius recently cut his dreads. Regret quickly followed. That only strengthened Crowder's resolve to keep growing his dreads.

Crowder said he has to wash his hair every day. It also gets manicured every two months. His aunt is the only one allowed to touch his hair, and her most recent touch-up came before the Big East tournament.

Daniel's regimen is far less complicated now that he has embraced the 'fro. The pregame braiding process sapped 45 minutes to an hour, but it did offer certain advantages. Daniel isn't nearly as strict as Crowder about who may manipulate his hair. His only rule? No men. So he always put that 45-60 minutes to good use. "It is quality time with the ladies," he said.

Murray State's Prohm said he briefly considered ordering Daniel to chop his top, but then Prohm thought back to a passage he read in a book by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Only fight certain battles," Prohm said. Daniel even offered to cut it, but Prohm decided the 'do that made his overachieving post happy was the one that would help the team. "Maybe if I was 48 or 52, I'd have said, 'You have to cut it,'" Prohm said. "But I'm 37."

Prohm is glad he made that choice, because Daniel's hair has become a full-on phenomenon. Daniel doesn't completely understand why, but he'll take the height and notoriety boost. And if Daniel and his 'fro can outplay Crowder and his dreads, Daniel will be a lock for the 2012 NCAA hair title.

"I really never thought my hair," Daniel said, "would be this fascinating to people."

 
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