NCAA March Madness: Every Sweet 16 Team As a Vinyl Record
March Madness is in full swing, with the Sweet 16 set to begin on Thursday, March 23. It's been a particularly eventful tournament, with major upsets during the opening round, particularly Farleigh-Dickinson's shocking defeat of Perdue, busting nearly everyone's bracket. With the field narrowed down to some of the best of the best, we thought it would be a fun exercise to choose a vinyl record to represent each of the teams still standing.
Alabama- Commodores (1974) by Commodores
Widely considered to be the best team in the nation, the Crimson Tide have rolled over their first two opponents, winning by a combined score of 169-126. Their combination of offensive firepower and defensive dominance make them a nightmare for any opponent, especially considering they face little opposition on their path forward to the Final Four. With that in mind, we decided to go with one of the state of Alabama's finest exports, the Commodores. Their self-titled album features one of their most famous tunes, "Easy", which if all breaks well, should describe Alabama's road to the title.
Houston- Survivor (2001) by Destiny's Child
The only other top seed remaining in the tournament, Houston is as solid a bet as anyone to win it all. Injuries have been an issue, but the team is getting healthier with each passing game. They've been picked up by their secondary scoring options and deep bench, but their road to the title is much tougher than Alabama, with heavyweight matchups awaiting in the next two rounds. We went with Houston's own Destiny's Child and their album Survivor, meant to capture the spirit of a team whose best ball is probably yet to come.
Things got a little too close for comfort in Texas' last matchup, as Penn State staged a late rally to tighten things up. Texas responded with a 10-0 run to shut the door and move on to its next game against Xavier. A possible Elite Eight matchup against Houston awaits past this round, so we went with Austin native Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood to sum up the potential intra-state contest. Texas is one of the more veteran teams in the tournament, with seniors making up their three main scoring threats. They'll need that kind of leadership if they're going to take home the title.
Connecticut- Red (Taylor's Version), (2021) by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift's re-recording of her seminal album Red was an effort to reclaim her music and make use of the decade of experience she's acquired since then to refine and tell stories the way she wanted to. That makes it the perfect album for UConn, a team that entered the season as a title favorite, experienced a lull, and has worked to reclaim its reputation as a contender. Led by Adama Sanogo's dominant play, UConn's path to the Final Four is a tough one, but has never been clearer.
There's only one way to describe Gonzaga's play right now, and it's Seattle's own Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." Hendrix's scorching guitar parts are the only match for the Zags on the court right now, as they're currently riding an 11 game winning streak. Any defensive deficiencies have been covered up by overwhelming their opponents with scoring, but we'll see if that pattern holds up against UCLA.
If there's anything the UCLA Bruins are in need of right now, it's some California Love, so went with 2Pac's classic All Eyez on Me to show them some. UCLA has been decimated by injury, unable to keep their full team on the court since the end of the regular season. Still, their matchup with Gonzaga is sure to excite, as the Zags' explosive offense will come face-to-face with UCLA's brick wall defense.
Creighton- Harry's House (2022) by Harry Styles
On his Album of the Year winning album, Harry Styles brilliantly juxtaposes some heavy lyrical content with upbeat, danceable music. Similarly, here is Creighton in the Sweet 16, having won some heavyweight matchups and lost some head scratchers. Despite that inconsistency and lack of true star power, they have arguably the easiest Sweet 16 matchup and a solid chance at getting to the school's first Elite Eight in 82 years.
Kansas State- Wichita Lineman (1968) by Glen Campbell
Kansas State is one of the feel-good stories of the tournament, with a relative newbie coach behind the bench of a roster without many genuine stars, but still managing to get the job done. They're a scrappy group led by Markquis Nowell, a diminutive sharpshooter who put on a clinic in their last matchup against Kentucky. They may lack the panache of their in-state counterpart in Lawrence, but they're sitting at home, while the Wildcats, in the words of Glen Campbell, are "still on the line."
Michigan State- Tommy (1969) by The Who
It's not often that the star of a team is the guy holding the clipboard rather than the ball, but for the Spartans, it's all about Tommy. Coach Tom Izzo has guided Michigan State to eight appearances in the Final Four, winning the National Championship in 2000. Michigan State doesn't overwhelm with talent, but Izzo has made them into a team that is consistently hard to play against and can go toe-to-toe with anyone in terms of tenacity.
"It's All About the Benjamins" in Miami, as LifeWallet CEO John Ruiz has been free with his wallet, luring Nijel Pack with a large NIL deal. Pack teamed with ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong to help the Hurricanes put together an impressive season, one that sees them playing in yet another Sweet 16. They're a heavy underdog against Houston, but have offensive skill to spare.
Arkansas- Escape (1981) by Journey
Let's get this one out of the way, we all knew "Don't Stop Believin'" was making an appearance, because you can't really have a sports article without it. Still, it's an appropriate anthem for the Razorbacks, who were this tournament's giant slayer. They knocked off defending champion Kansas by a single point to reach the Sweet 16, and with what is sure to be a grueling but winnable matchup against UConn, they're not going to want to stop there.
Xavier- 21 (2011) by Adele
The Musketeers are one of the best teams in the tournament when it comes to spreading the offense around, or in Adele's words, "Rolling in the Deep." Their deep bench has carried them through their first two games of the tournament despite some less-than-stellar defense. With Texas looming, they're going to hope they can tighten up and rely on their offensive depth to pick them up.
Florida Atlantic- Thriller (1982) by Michael Jackson
It seems appropriate that Florida Atlantic's mascot would be an owl, because they probably elicited a "who?" (I'm so sorry) from most people upon hearing they defeated Memphis in the opening round. FAU eked out a victory in a one point "Thriller" (again, so sorry), and went on to beat tournament darling Farleigh-Dickinson to reach the Sweet 16. It's worth noting that those were their first two NCAA tournament wins in the history of the school, and with a very winnable matchup against Tennessee up next, they could be looking at a spot in the Elite Eight.
San Diego State- Duets (1994) by Frank Sinatra
Even the best teams in the world are in need of a little bit of luck from time to time, but San Diego State is the one with the misfortune of having to play Alabama. So, as Frank says in his duet with the Pretenders' Chrissy Hynde, "luck be a lady tonight." The Aztecs are an excellent defensive team, able to box out their opponents and frustrate elite offensive teams, but probably lack the high-octane offense to really make it a game against the Tide. That is, unless everything breaks just right.
Tennessee- Traveller (2015) by Chris Stapleton
The team that knocked off perennial favorite Duke being only a slight favorite over Florida Atlantic doesn't seem quite right, but here we are. Tennessee is a strong defensive team, which could carry them to victory over a team without much to offer by way of offensive ability. The Vols tend to struggle on free throws, so a game that depends on their ability at the line could spell trouble. They'll have to be "as smooth as Tennessee whiskey" if they want a chance at the Elite Eight.
Princeton- Born to Run (1975) by Bruce Springsteen
With the way this Princeton team has played, they're deserving of Bruce Springsteen's New Jersey anthem. The Tigers gained national attention with a borderline perfect performance to oust #2 seed Arizona and made short work of Missouri to draw a matchup with Creighton. They're a heavy underdog, but against a team that struggles with consistency, a spot in the Elite Eight is not out of the question.