College Basketball: Most Famous Fan/Alumni from Each Top 25 School
The college basketball season is still a few months away, but the preseason polls have been coming out since the Final Four ended in New Orleans. No matter how many times they are completely off base, the preseason Top 25 polls are fun to read and are especially entertaining when viewing them in hindsight.
What is even more entertaining is college basketball itself, which often brings out the most passionate fans and celebrity alumni to cheer on their respective teams. The following list will take a look at some of the most popular celebrity fans around, as well as some interesting alumni that you may not have known about before.
I decided to use Dick Vitale's rankings from his preseason top 40 article to determine the teams in this list. However, I am only using the first 25 teams on the list.
1. Louisville: Diane Sawyer
Even though the Louisville Cardinals lost to eventual champion Kentucky in the Final Four, they appear atop Vitale's preseason ranking and for good reason. Rick Pitino's squad returns nearly every core player from last season's team, with the exception of graduated seniors Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith.
The Cardinals do not necessarily have a famous fan that shows up at every home game, but they do have some famous alumni. Perhaps the most popular is Diane Sawyer, the former host of television's "Good Morning America" show.
Sawyer was born in Glasgow, Kentucky and was raised in the city of Louisville. Although she attended most of her college at a university in Massachusetts, she did attend law school at the University of Louisville before pursuing her career in journalism.
2. Kentucky: Ashley Judd
The Kentucky Wildcats will enter the 2012-13 season as the defending national champions, albeit without their top six contributors from that team. Their five starters and sixth man all entered the 2012 NBA Draft, leaving the cupboard bare for this season.
However, John Calipari hauled in another top recruiting class and has the Wildcats ranked among the top teams in the country heading into next season.
This is exciting news for Ashley Judd, the team's most famous fan. She attends nearly every home game and is always seen wearing UK gear and cheering on her favorite team.
Judd is perhaps one of the most famous college basketball fans in the country because of how vocal she is about her support for the Big Blue. Ashley is a Hollywood actress who is most famous for her roles in Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy and Ruby in Paradise.
3. Indiana: John Mellencamp
The Indiana Hoosiers are finally back among college basketball's elite and are geared up for a big season in 2012-13. They return nearly every key player from last season's team, who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and defeated three top-five teams during the regular season.
One former alumni of the school has donated a lot more than his time to the Hoosier basketball program. John Mellencamp, a famous singer and musician, has been a long-time advocate for the team.
In fact, he put his money where his mouth is when he made the lead donation in funding the Mellencamp Pavilion, a multi-purpose sports facility on the Bloomington campus. The 100,000-square foot facility is used as a training ground for nearly every sports team at the university.
That is certainly one way to earn your stripes as a former alumni and fan.
4. Kansas: Jason Sudeikis
The Kansas Jayhawks have a lot of excitement surrounding their program as they enter next season. Fresh off of an appearance in the national title game, the Jayhawks have some nice recruits and some good returning players contributing to next season's roster.
They hope to repeat as Big 12 champions, as does Kansas superfan Jason Sudeikis. The television comedian, best known for his role on Saturday Night Live, is known to be a huge fan of the program and has been spotted at numerous home games with fellow celebrities, such as Olivia Wilde.
Sudeikis' family actually holds season tickets, but he has been busy making films lately. Sudeikis had roles in Horrible Bosses, Hall Pass and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. His star is rising in Hollywood, as are his beloved Jayhawks.
5. Michigan: Verne Troyer
The Michigan Wolverines have had a resurgence in their basketball program as of late. Led by the dual-guard tandem of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan made a great run through the Big Ten conference last season before being upset in the NCAA tournament.
Regardless, they are poised for another great year and are led by Burke, the transcendent talent at point guard. The Wolverine basketball team may not be as successful as their football brethren, but they have had some very good seasons as of late and hope to keep the success rolling this season.
Speaking of the football program, it is ironic that the home of the "Big House" can have such a small person as a celebrity fan. Verne Troyer, of Austin Power fame, is noted as a huge Michigan sports fan and is often seen wearing the school's official gear.
Troyer was a stunt double for years in Hollywood before starring as the character "Mini-Me" in the Austin Powers film series.
6. Michigan State: Kid Rock
Another year, another top-ten ranking for the Michigan State Spartans. I'm sure fans are getting bored of this continuous success during the Tom Izzo era; it must get boring being great every single year.
In all seriousness, Izzo has been absolutely remarkable during his tenure as the Spartan head coach. He has led the men's basketball program to a national championship and what seems like an annual trip to the Final Four, regardless of location.
Taking in all of this success has been Spartan super fan Kid Rock. The famous musician and rock performer can often be spotted cheering on his favorite basketball team when he's not filling up venues or playing shows on the road.
In fact, he is an ambassador for the state of Michigan as a whole. He was recently chosen as the grand marshall for the Michigan 400 NASCAR event coming up later this month.
7. NC State: Tom Gugliotta
The North Carolina State Wolfpack return most of their roster from last season's surprising ACC tournament winner. Therefore, it is not surprising to see their preseason ranking up this high.
On top of that, they have a stellar incoming freshman class that is among the country's best. In a year when North Carolina and Duke are perhaps a little down, this could be the Wolfpack's best chance in decades at claiming the ACC crown.
In terms of a famous alumni, one of them made waves on news networks last season after a bizarre incident. Former basketball player Tom Gugliotta, who had a long NBA career, was ejected from a regular season game last year by a referee.
The reason for the incident is unclear, but Gugliotta's exit is perhaps the most famous fan sighting for any team last year, for better or for worse. Watch the incident unfold in the embedded video clip.
8. Baylor: Jeff Dunham
Baylor University is coming off of a banner year for their major sports programs. The football team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who led the Bears to their best season in school history. They defeated long-time rivals Oklahoma and Texas en route to a bowl victory to cap off the year.
As for men's basketball, the Bears were led by talented forwards Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller. The team made a deep run to the NCAA Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual champion Kentucky. Still, the program is on the rise and has a bright future ahead of them.
One of the school's most famous alumni is stand-up comedian Jeff Dunham. He is known for his show on Comedy Central and features puppets in his act.
The famous ventriloquist is a graduate of Baylor University. However, it is unclear if he is a passionate Baylor sports fan or not.
9. Syracuse: Bob Costas
The 2011-12 college basketball regular season was dominated by two teams: Kentucky and Syracuse. Jim Boeheim's team only lost one game, including a perfect non-conference record. They proceeded to lose in the Big East tournament and in the 2012 NCAA Elite Eight, but the Orange still had a phenomenal year.
Syracuse University is also good in other areas besides basketball. In fact, their broadcasting program is one of the best in the nation. This is evident by the list of accomplished students who have come from this program.
One of those distinguished individuals is Bob Costas. He is one of sport's great personalities and is always there at the biggest events, including this year's London Olympics.
Costas has been a long-time employee of NBC Sports and has covered hundreds of events, whether it be for the NBA, NFL or his beloved sport of baseball.
10. Ohio State: John Legend
Head coach Thad Matta led his Ohio State Buckeyes back to the Final Four last season, one season after falling short of their title hopes as the tournament's top overall seed.
Buckeye star Jared Sullinger made sure that did not happen this time around, as he led Ohio State through a difficult NCAA tournament draw to reach the Final Four. Sullinger left after the season and the team did lose a few seniors, but there is still plenty of returning talent to make another deep tournament run.
One of the program's most famous fans is R&B musician John Legend. The soulful pianist graduated from the University of Pennsylvania but is a devoted Buckeye fan.
In fact, he even owns a piano that is completely covered in Ohio State stickers. According to an article on ESPN.com, he does not attend many of the games but does catch as many of them on television as possible.
11. Duke: Alex Rodriguez
The Duke Blue Devils had another successful season in 2011-12 and were led by NBA lottery pick Austin Rivers. They defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels on the road and locked up a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That is when everything went wrong for the Blue Devils. They lost a heartbreaker to Lehigh University that embarrassed the program and ruined thousands of March Madness brackets nationwide. Even with that stunning end to the season, they appear poised to have another good team next season.
A current MLB superstar is on a great team of his own and is a big fan of Duke basketball. Alex Rodriguez is the star player for the New York Yankees and has been spotted at a handful of Blue Devil games at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Being that he plays for a juggernaut baseball franchise, it probably makes sense that he roots for a juggernaut program in college basketball as well.
12. Arizona: Kristen Wiig
Head coach Sean Miller has led a resurgence in the Arizona men's basketball program. Although the team did not do extremely well last season, they made a splash in 2010-11 by advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight.
Even though they lost to eventual champion Connecticut, the Wildcats had a great season and were led by future NBA lottery pick Derrick Williams. Miller has a good recruiting class coming in next season and should have plenty of talent to make a run at the Pac-12 championship.
The university does not have many notable basketball fans, but there are plenty of famous alumni. Perhaps none had a better 2011 than Kristen Wiig.
The comedian starred in the film Bridesmaids, which was nominated for Academy Awards and launched Wiig into the Hollywood stratosphere with her fantastic all-around performance.
Wiig is known for her skits on Saturday Night Live and attended Arizona as an Arts major while also attending acting courses. She eventually dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.
13. North Carolina: John Edwards
The North Carolina Tar Heels had a crushing end to their promising season, falling to the Kansas Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen in last year's NCAA tournament. Star point guard Kendall Marshall suffered an injury that the team could not overcome, ending their run for another title.
After the season, four key contributors from that team left for the NBA, leaving behind a young roster without much proven senior leadership. Even then, there is plenty of talent left in Chapel Hill to lead the Tar Heels back to the Final Four this year.
John Edwards certainly hopes that is the case. The politician from North Carolina graduated from the university and openly roots for them in public events. He even attended a UNC baseball game back in the spring.
Edwards was a former vice presidential nominee and is still in politics.
14. UCLA: Jaleel White
Ben Howland's UCLA Bruins came under heavy scrutiny last season when reports came out that he had lost control of the program. Media investigations claimed that Howland failed to reel in some of his star players and essentially let them run the team as they saw fit.
Many analysts thought this could have been the end of the line for Howland, but he turned things around with a remarkable 2012 recruiting class. Reeling in Shabazz Mohammed and Kyle Anderson was a huge coup for the Bruins' head coach, who is trying to bury his past behind him and lead UCLA back to respectability.
Speaking of past roles, very few television actors portrayed a more iconic character than Jaleel White. He played Steve Urkell in the hit show Family Matters and was America's favorite goofball. Whether it was the suspenders, the massive glasses or the obnoxious voice, White's take on the character proved to be extremely popular and led to great ratings for the long-running show.
White is not an A-list celebrity anymore, but he still finds time to take in some UCLA basketball games. He is a big fan of the team and shows up quite often at Pauley Pavilion.
15. Memphis: Justin Timberlake
The Memphis Tigers have continued their on-court success after the departure of John Calipari three years ago. New head coach Josh Pastner has kept the recruiting level up and brought a lot of energy to the team.
Even though they lost guard Will Barton to the NBA, Memphis is poised to make a better run this season as their young guns are becoming upperclassmen and they can mix experience with talent.
One of Memphis' most underrated celebrity fans is the ultra-talented Justin Timberlake. The pop singer has family in Memphis and openly supports the team any way he can. In fact, he even has a page devoted to Memphis sports on his personal website.
Timberlake is currently enjoying a successful music career while also appearing in films such as The Social Network and Friends With Benefits.
16. San Diego State: Marshall Faulk
The San Diego State Aztecs have a long list of distinguished alumni, ranging from John Madden to Stephen Strasburg. However, none of them is quite as vocal about their former school as Marshall Faulk.
Faulk is one of the greatest running backs in NFL history and was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During his speech, he referenced his time as an Aztec as essential to his success as a player and a man.
He was honored by the school during his Hall of Fame week at a basketball game against Utah. Faulk is a big fan of the program and has certainly made them proud with his play in the NFL.
17. Notre Dame: Mike Golic
When it comes to Notre Dame football and basketball, very few sports personalities promote the Fighting Irish as much as Mike Golic.
He is a radio host for the ESPN radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning, along with Mike Greenberg. Golic was a standout player during his time at Notre Dame and went on to play in the NFL.
He talks about his love for Notre Dame often during the radio show and is an advocate for all of their sports teams, including basketball.
18. Creighton: Paul Silas
Former Charlotte Bobcats head coach Paul Silas has had a long and victorious coaching career, as well as a distinguished career as a NBA player. All of that started during his playing days at Creighton University.
Silas was a college star during his time with the Bluejays. In fact, he set a record for the most rebounds in a three-season span during his college career. During the 1963 season, Silas averaged over 20 rebounds per game and translated that skill to the NBA.
He won three NBA championships and was a multiple All-Defensive team selection. Silas moved into head coaching after his playing days were over and coached the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Bobcats.
19. Florida: Erin Andrews
Before establishing herself as America's favorite sideline reporter, ESPN's Erin Andrews was a Dazzler for the Florida Gators dance team during her college years.
She has always been vocal about her University of Florida background and is a big supporter of the program. She is obviously a fan of the basketball team because of her Dazzler days, but she also appears at football games to show her support.
In fact, Andrews pulled off the school's signature "gator chomp" during the Dancing With the Stars competition. She is certainly great at showing off her school spirit!
20. Texas: Matthew McConaughey
If there is anyone on this list who can match Ashley Judd in terms of college celebrity fandom, it is Matthew McConaughey. The former University of Texas alum has been a vocal supporter of the program for years.
McConaughey was born and raised in Texas and graduated from UT-Austin with a degree in radio-television-film. His acting career took off after landing a lead role in the hit film Dazed and Confused.
Since then, he has appeared in numerous romantic comedies and sports movies, including We Are Marshall.
21. New Mexico: Brian Urlacher
New Mexico is expected to return a solid basketball team next season, led by head coach Steve Alford. The Lobos advanced to the NCAA tournament last year but lost to the Louisville Cardinals.
Regardless, they are poised for a deeper run in next year's tournament. The school has some impressive alumni in all of sports, but perhaps none more so than Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
He is a multiple All-Pro selection and is one of the greatest linebackers of his generation. Urlacher played linebacker and safety during his time at New Mexico and is a proud alum for the school.
22. Wisconsin: Bud Selig
The Wisconsin Badgers nearly shocked the world last season. During the NCAA tournament, they fought neck-and-neck with the No. 1 Syracuse Orange. Wisconsin kept the game close the whole way and nearly pulled off the upset, but they missed a last-second shot to do so.
However, they had a successful season and will continue to do even without Jordan Taylor. The star guard declared for the NBA draft so the team must replace his veteran presence.
If they can do that then they will make their fans extremely happy, including MLB commissioner Bud Selig. He is a graduate of the university and has been a loyal supporter for his alma mater.
Selig plans to step down from baseball after this season. If he does so, then one of his plans is to teach for the University of Wisconsin. Selig would like to teach a sports course or two if the university allows him to do so. Somehow, I think they will make this happen.
23. Cincinnati: Nick Lachey
Nick Lachey is a former member of the boy band 98 Degrees. The group, which has sold over 10 million records, were successful but did not stay together very long and Lachey moved on to a career in reality television.
He grew up in Kentucky right across the river from Cincinnati. He attended public school there before attending college at USC and then Miami (Ohio) University.
Even though Nick never attended the University of Cincinnati, he is very passionate about the program and is seen attending numerous games during the season.
24. Missouri: Jon Hamm
It is an exciting time to be a Missouri Tiger basketball fan. First of all, the team is fresh off of its best season in years as Frank Haith led the team to a 30-5 record and a No. 2 in the NCAA tournament.
Also, Missouri is moving to the SEC conference this season and joins Kentucky and Florida as the early favorites to win the conference this year.
A famous alumni of the school is actor Jon Hamm. Best known for his lead role in the show Mad Men, Hamm has been a rising star in Hollywood during the past few years and started it all at Missouri.
There he attended school as an English major and eventually graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English. He originally went into teaching before making it big in Hollywood.
25. Butler: Sarah Fisher
Butler University has made quite a name for itself in the past few years. Led by head coach Brad Stevens, the Bulldogs made two consecutive NCAA final appearances in 2010 and 2011.
The teams were first led by Gordon Heyward, then Matt Howard during their runs to college basketball's final game. They had all of America cheering them on, even though they screwed up thousands of brackets everywhere.
Although the basketball program has done well, it has yet to draw a celebrity following at its home games. There are some notable alumni, though, such as race car driver Sarah Fisher.
Fisher is the most decorated female driver in the IndyCar series and also competed in nine Indianapolis 500 races. She set nearly every single female record, including most career starts and highest earnings.
She is now a team owner, yet again the first female to do so in IndyCar. Her team won an IndyCar race, which was yet another first set by her.
Fisher attended Butler as a part-time student and pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering. However, she was given an offer to race on the track and has made history ever since then.