With the NCAA’s now-annual Top 16 reveal imminent (tomorrow morning at 11:30est), I decided to give a quick look into my own Top 16, complete with comparisons to a character played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Why? Because I can, and because I have an undying love for basically every single Rock character. If I had a personal brand, The Rock films and bracketology would be two of the primary tenets. So why not combine the two?
There’s also a full bracket at the bottom of this, if for some insane reason you don’t want to read through my comparisons. But I can’t imagine that’s the case!
1. Duke – Dwayne Johnson (the man himself)
Okay, so I’m sort of cheating right away (Dwayne is not a “character”), but this comparison just feels right. Overflowing with charisma and talent, both are versatile threats who can beat you in multiple ways. But they’re truly at their best in their own comfort zone – playing to a crowd, running at a feverish tempo at the center of the action, dunking all over their hopelessly overmatched competition.
2. Virginia – Will Sawyer, Skyscraper
Similar to how the masses view Virginia as less threatening due to its glacial tempo and [alleged] lack of an explosive offense, Will Sawyer has his own “limitation”: he lost part of his left leg during an FBI Hostage Rescue mission gone awry. Of course, when the Hoos are demoralizing your favorite team with their ruthlessly efficient and physical style of play, you’ll feel like the multiple henchmen who get knocked into next week by Sawyer’s artificial limb. Also, I’m seemingly the only person in the world who gets joy out of watching Skyscraper and Virginia, so there’s that, too.
3. Tennessee – Paul Doyle, Pain & Gain
Yes, the primary reason for this comparison is that Doyle is a mega-weightlifter, and the Vols’ Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are both monsters (I can’t decide which one is Doyle and which one is Daniel Lugo, aka Mark Wahlberg’s character. But Yves Pons is definitely Anthony Mackie). My favorite part of this movie is when they accidentally kill a potential financier/accomplice with weights and react by…lifting weights. Just tremendous art.
The “Sun Gym gang,” as they come to be known, eventually gets busted for murder, and two of them are sentenced to death, so…here’s hoping Tennessee’s season ends with a more positive spin!
4. Michigan – Maui, Moana
That’s right, I’m going animated on you fools! Michigan’s nationally elite defense makes the Wolverines a demigod-esque powerhouse at the top of the Big Ten…except sometimes, they falter when their offense/magical giant fishhook isn’t functioning properly, leading to losses at Wisconsin and Iowa. As the film progresses, though, Maui finds his courage even without the hook, enabling him to regain his demigod status, and Michigan must similarly find ways to win when the offense isn’t quite clicking. Beilein’s crew will have its first chance to do that this weekend in a rematch with the Badgers on Saturday afternoon.
5. Gonzaga – Luke Hobbs, The Fast and the Furious franchise (plus HOBBS & SHAW!!!)
Hobbs is quite possibly the most absurd character in the Rock’s arsenal: at one point, he has a huge hard cast on his recently broken arm, but when duty calls, he rips free of the cast by FLEXING TOO HARD, all while telling his daughter that, “Daddy’s gotta go to work.” I mean, HELL YEAH. I want to break my arm just to try that and fail miserably. Both the Zags and Hobbs are absolutely loaded with weapons, and they’ll each get a chance to truly shine on the national stage in 2019.
6. Kentucky – Ray Gaines, San Andreas
Kentucky’s season and this movie both started with a cataclysmic disaster, with Kentucky’s complete destruction at the hands of Duke serving as a stand-in for a 7.1 magnitude earthquake (honestly, kind of an apt comparison). Of course, if you didn’t think Ray freakin’ Gaines (a helicopter rescue pilot) was getting off the mat and coming back with a vengeance to save his family, you’re definitely watching the wrong movie, and Kentucky’s recent resurgence is no different. The Wildcats are right back in the national title picture, looking every bit of a true threat once the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
7. Michigan St. – Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Only a true fan would be sure to include the full title of the movie above, so please note that on your scorecard at home. I’m going with Jumanji for Sparty, because like Bravestone and his companions, they’re a seemingly-undermanned team that’s having to navigate the dangerous jungle that is the Big Ten. Cassius Winston’s wizardry has gotten them this far, but a recent swoon has some (read: 3MW) wondering if Michigan State is a little closer to the top 15ish team we thought they were preseason, rather than the top 6 juggernaut they had been.
8. North Carolina – Mitch Buchannon, Baywatch
A remake of the popular TV show (and the second Rock film in this list featuring Alexandra Daddario!), Baywatch features the Rock as lifeguard/superhero Mitch Buchannon, who is forced to take the persistently disappointing Zach Efron under his wing. Nassir Little is Efron in this comparison, the hotshot recruit who struggles to find his role on the team, but who ultimately holds the key to unlocking the full terrifying potential of the squad. Little has started to come on as of late, and not coincidentally, the Tar Heels are on a tear, with four straight dominant performances under their belts.
9. Kansas – Agent 23, Get Smart
Seemingly a national title threat/hero at the beginning of the season/movie, Kansas/Agent 23 turn out to be *Spoiler alert* a fraudster/the villain as the story unfolds. The Jayhawks have had to deal with plenty of adversity (Udoka Azubuike injury, Silvio de Sousa ineligibility, Lagerald Vick leave of absence), but some/most of that has been self-created. I’m a little nervous this team gets run over by a train come tournament time, with the Jayhawks’ lack of shooting serving as Steve Carell’s “kiss of death.”
10. Purdue – Hercules, Hercules (duh)
How did it take until 2014 for Dwayne Johnson to play Hercules in a movie? That should have been the first film he booked. Purdue’s Carsen Edwards has done his best Hercules impression this year, ranking 11th in the entire country in possessions used while maintaining an impressive level of efficiency. Like big Herc in this film, his supporting cast is quietly deadly (shouts to Atalanta), and if the youngsters like Trevion Williams and Aaron Wheeler continue to produce, we may be telling stories of Edwards and this Boiler team for years to come.
11. Wisconsin – Davis Okoye, Rampage
Okoye is a former US Army Special Forces soldier who becomes a primatologist and the main contact for the lowland gorilla George at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary (are you on board yet? BECAUSE I AM). He eventually fights a supersized wolf named Ralph (?) and a mutated flying crocodile named Lizzie (????) in downtown Chicago, wrecking the city and making me daydream about how long I wouldn’t have to go to work if this actually happened. Anyways – Ethan Happ is Okoye, a master of all “bigs,” capable of using his craft and guile to defeat monsters like Matt Haarms, Jon Teske, and Bruno Fernando, despite some clear athletic disadvantages.
12. Marquette – Detective Christopher Danson, The Other Guys
A big shot detective along with Samuel L. Jackson (Detective PK Highsmith), Danson and Highsmith are the “king shit” cops around the precinct. Early in the film, they “aim for the bushes” and abruptly die when jumping off a building, leaving the primary crime to be solved by the titular “Other Guys.” The Golden Eagles’ season, like that case, may end up coming down to the other guys: we know Markus Howard is a star, and Sam Hauser has one of the deadliest outside strokes in the country, but can role players like Sacar Anim, Theo John, and Sam’s brother Joey rise to the occasion in the biggest moments, especially if Howard has an off night? That will likely determine how far Marquette goes in the postseason.
13. Houston – Robbie Weirdicht/Bob Stone, Central Intelligence
Weirdicht is a complete loser at the start of the film (set when he’s in high school). Case in point: for some totally unexplained reason, he’s showering in the locker room while a school assembly is going on, and bullies grab him and throw him naked into the gymnasium for everyone to laugh at. Not quite to the same extreme, but Houston was an afterthought at the start of the year, mostly overlooked due to the losses of Rob Gray and Devin Davis. Quickly, though, Weirdicht is revealed to have changed his name to Bob Stone and become a mega-badass CIA operative, and Houston has ripped off 21 wins in its first 22 games to catapult itself into the Top 16 picture. This is a sneaky good team and movie (yeah, I’ll say it).
14. Nevada – Spencer Strasmore, Ballers
Anyone who knows me was waiting to see when Ballers would appear in this list. I’m widely known for sending Snapchats of the Ballers intro credits every Sunday night during Ballers season, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not listening to the theme song as I type this. In fact, WATCH IT NOW:
Anyways: Nevada/Strasmore. Strasmore is a lot more “flash” than most salt-of-the-earth Rock heroes, what with his fancy suits and yacht parties on his agency’s dime. However, he does get the job done, and when he’s at his peak, he can bring a football team to Las Vegas (which, if you didn’t know, is in Nevada). Nevada is flashy, too, but susceptible to a fall/upset, something we’ll be wary of come March.
15. Louisville – Sean Porter, Gridiron Gang
Porter (and, apparently, Xzibit?) turns a group of convicts into a successful football team. Chris Mack has turned a group of mid-major transfers and decent-to-good recruits into a Top 16 college hoops squad. There ya go, I’m getting tired of writing these, and quite frankly I’m terrified of being told I’m saying Louisville’s players are convicts (I’m not!!).
16. Villanova – Mathayus/Scorpion King, The Mummy series
The OG Rock role, and Villanova is the reigning national champs. This brand new cast of characters is blazing their own trail, though, just like the Scorpion King shockingly got a spin-off. Kindly disregard that The Scorpion King film was a prequel, I’m all out of creativity!
We did it!!! Even I have had enough of the Rock (for a few minutes at least), so onto the actual bracket: