Root for Rick Majerus. Root for Utah. Root for the 300-pound bag of cholesterol in the wrinkled sweater and the crinkled dome. Go ahead. Give into Starch Madness.
Do not root for North Carolina. Rooting for North Carolina is like rooting for Exxon. North Carolina wins, its fans rise as one out of their Barcaloungers, yawn once and turn in.
If Majerus wins the NCAA tournament, he might just explode like an overripe tomato. He has never been to the Final Four as a head coach until now, despite having devoted his life to getting there. He has lived on the seventh floor of a hotel in Salt Lake City just so he could think about nothing but getting there. The 50-year-old Majerus is what all men would be if their wives would just let them: He doesn't do the dishes, doesn't mow the lawn and rarely worries about using the "special" towels. He has pretty much cornered Guy Heaven: He gets room service, has his secretary buy his shirts and lives hoop. Period.
Root for Majerus because he loves basketball as much as you do. Wherever he is in the world, he's looking for a pickup game. He'll play with complete strangers, makes no difference. "All I do is pick, pass and box out," he says. "You play me, I guarantee you won't get a rebound." The only lousy part about Utah's making it to San Antonio is it means he won't get to play in his usual game at the Final Four with his buddies, including Kevin Costner. "He always puts me on his team," says Majerus. "Wouldn't you want somebody who just picks, passes and boxes out?" Afterward, of course, there's a buffet.
Do not root for Kentucky. Rooting for Kentucky to win another championship is like rooting for Tyra Banks to have breast-augmentation surgery. Besides, how can you root for a team with a counterfeit Tubby? Kentucky coach Tubby Smith is no more a Tubby than Majerus is a Stretch. Majerus has earned his tubbyness. He is a two-fisted, sleeves-up, facedown eater. If you were to drop Majerus out of the sky and into downtown Djibouti, he'd know a good little wings joint down the street.
Root for a guy who isn't one of the pretty people. One day in Cincinnati, Majerus was walking through a lobby when he heard a guy say about him, "That's somebody. Who is it? He's famous." Another guy said, "I know who it is! It's one of the Stooges!" Majerus fights his weight every day. His father, Raymond, died of a heart attack at 61. Rick started having chest pains at 41 and had to have a septuple bypass. Now he works out daily, but the weight won't stay off, possibly because he can't bring himself to do the one exercise that would help the most—the pasta push-away.
Do not root for Stanford. Stanford kids need no more breaks in life. Stanford is a lot of handsome 84-inch geniuses who will all be playing for the Brookings Institution soon enough. Stanford is coached by a slim, handsome man, Mike Montgomery, who would look debonair in a tarp for a 1979 Gran Torino. Majerus always looks a little like a man shoplifting pillows. He was offered a reported $40 million last year to coach the Golden State Warriors—if Sprewell had choked Majerus, he would have gotten a projectile rigatoni right in the kisser—but said no, possibly because he does not own a suit. The day Majerus joins the NBA, Giorgio Armani weeps.
Root for Majerus, a guy who knows more about basketball than the Springfield YMCA. Root for the hoops savant who went to the West Regional in Anaheim last week and whipped defending champ Arizona by three city blocks with a musty triangle-and-two defense. Root for the guy with the volleyball haircut—six on a side—who outcoached Lute Olson and his pocketful of combs.
Root for the son of a toiletmaker. Root for a man who usually flies, buses and eats apart from his team so that his players learn to be men and not wards. Root for him because he's been loyal. Root for him because a championship will mean more to him than to anybody else in the Alamodome. But mostly, root for Rick Majerus and Utah because if they win, it will be the first time in NCAA history that a coach and his players celebrate madly in the locker room by squirting one another with barbecue sauce.