It's quite apparent the University of Oregon has started a trend amongst colleges across the land. When you think of the Oregon Ducks, you might think of the LaGarrette Blount punch after the loss to Boise State, or you might think of that crazy basketball court with the looming forest graphics embedded in the hardwood...or you probably think of the bold and attention-grabbing uniforms donned by the football and other sports teams. And if you notice their uniforms, you have likely taken equal notice of the maker of said apparel...Nike (whose co-founders are alumni and former athletes at the University of Oregon).
Recognizing the implementation of such eye-popping and statement-making uniforms are a powerful recruiting tool in this era of college sports, other schools have followed Oregon's trail, including Texas Christian and Maryland, for example, on the gridiron. And just as other schools have recognized the value, so have competing athletic apparel & equipment companies.
Back to the hardcourt, the most audacious uniforms of this tournament season have been worn by Baylor, Louisville, and Cincinnati...and by "most audacious" I mean hideous. Adidas, the maker of these uniforms has cited their Adizero line as being "super-lightweight" to help give teams an edge during tourney time - they for got to mention super-ugly. And who knows, maybe super-lightweight and super-ugly have combined to both help performance of the team wearing them while also distracting the opponent. After all, Baylor, Cincy, and Louisville all found themselves in the Sweet 16, while Lousiville has advanced to the Final 4, and Baylor will try to do the same today against Kentucky.
So I thought it would be interesting to see who is winning the uniform bracket in the NCAA Tournament. I didn't feel like going back to the field of 68, so I'm going to start with the Sweet 16 (if someone else wants to do the rest of the research, have a blast). In the field of 16, Adidas led the way with 7 teams: Wisconsin, L'Ville, Baylor, Cincy, Indiana, North Carolina State, and Kansas. Nike was right on their heels with 6 teams: Syracuse, Ohio State, Kentucky, Xavier, Michigan State, and Florida. Now, if you want to get technical, Nike actually has 8 teams, because their Jordan Brand has both North Carolina and Marquette in the mix (but for our purposes, we'll keep Jordan separate). If you're keeping cout, we're up to 15 teams, so there's one remaining...Ohio University. And who is the uniform provider of the Bobcats? None other than Russell Athletic! Yeah, I know, I didn't think they still existed either.
It's pretty clear to see that Nike and Adidas have a stronghold on the college hoops market in the same way they dominate markets globally. Under Armour deserves some honorable mention as a growing team gear sponsor and actually had two teams in this tournament - Temple and South Florida - who actually met up in the "second" round. I'm sure the UA execs had a skybox for that matchup...which was actually a great game as USF had a monster 2nd half to notch a comeback victory in the upset. But what's really cool is that underdog, Russell Athletic, had a sleeper in the Sweet 16.
And that Ohio University team almost pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, losing to UNC in OT. The entire game I was thinking, "there's no way Russell Athletic can beat Jordan, right"?
The Elite 8 was comprised of 4 Nike schools, 1 Jordan, and 3 Adidas. Funny enough, only 1 matchup in the Sweet 16 was cannibalistic - NC State vs Kansas. Nike guaranteed itself at least 1 spot in the Final Four when Syracuse met Ohio State yesterday, but Louisville's comeback victory over Florida ensured Adidas a spot in the four as well. Later on today, Kentucky (Nike) will take on Baylor (Adidas), while UNC (Jordan) will see Kansas (Adidas). For my bracket's sake, I'm hoping Adidas has already seen it's lone team reach New Orleans.