The first several days of this season’s NCAA Tournament caught some flack for not being as mad as March Madness usually gets. It took 60 games for our first buzzer-beater and chalk prevailed early on. For many, the lack of wild games resulted in disappointment.
Here at Palestra Back, we staunchly disagree. No matter the nature or outcomes of the games on Days 1 and 2 of tournament play, we were still treated to 48 hours of non-stop basketball. On top of that, we enjoyed each of the 32 games those days as we rooted for or against players in the Palestra Back Fantasy Shootout. Not to mention, March Madness always brings one final cherry on top: the All-Handsome Team. In classic thrilling games or blowouts alike, myself and my team of experts are hot on the prowl for sharp jawlines, well-coiffed hair, and radiant smiles.
While many basketball watchers are distracted by the allure of the cheerleaders or coeds in the crowd, Palestra Back knows what the real fans are looking for: a breakdown of the best looking men in the NCAA Tournament, from four heterosexual males (and one woman whose participation is less than voluntary).
Our committee is back to make sure we’ve identified every hunk and stud in the field of 68, just in time for the Final Four. We hope each of the gentleman mentioned in this post know what a true honor has been bestowed upon them.
Here’s our contributors:
Shane: That’s me!
Stan: Palestra Back contributor and assistant editor (he finds my typos from time to time)
Eddie: 6-time All-Handsome Team voter, Tom Brady disciple
Kevin: All-Handsome Team co-founder, lover of forearm muscles and hockey hair
Emily: My wife, obviously a strong judge of handsome
And without further adieu:
Jack Salt (Virginia)
Shane: The large New Zealander was mentioned as a candidate last season, but was not awarded a spot on the team. In the last year, he’s buffed up his body and grown into a more mature face. Personally, I think he’s a no-brainer this year. Strong cheekbones and an accent? Crikey!
Emily: He has a very square head. He needs to grow hair on the sides of that block before I’m ready to call him handsome.
Eddie: Shane, Shane, Shane, you insensitive dolt. New Zealanders don’t say crikey. That’s an Australian thing. It’s a common misconception so I forgive you I guess. Anywho, in regards to Jack. I Googled him for some more context and I was very unimpressed with past iterations of his look, but he really has grown into a nice looking man. He is definitely my most improved player of the tournament and as someone who won the Most Improved Player Award for the 2009 Needham High School varsity baseball team I know what I’m talking about.
And, yes the accent definitely helps and I will tell you what, New Zealand accents are better than Australian accents and it’s not close for me. #KiwiStud #SaltOfTheEarth #MostImproved
Stan: Everyone is familiar with the old saying “All-Handsome season hasn’t truly started until Shane has nominated a big time uggo for the AHT” and this year, you wasted no time, buddy. Sure, Jack beefed up, but now he just looks like a fat man baby. He looks like the love child of Biff Tannen and Buzz McAllister. If this guy makes the squad, I will lose all faith in the AHT committee.
Kevin: I have to agree with the group. Buff + Accent ≠ Handsome, but are obviously some of the key tools, so I can see where Shane is coming from. Jack, maybe consider growing out some scruff for the ladies and ditch the man-baby face look. Better luck next year!
Landen Lucas (Kansas)
Shane: I really like Landen Lucas’ chances to make this team because he looks like a guy the Mowry twins would fight over on Sister, Sister.
Kevin: This kid has some intangibles that you just can’t teach – a good name (“Ooohhhhhh have you seen that Landen Lucas around campus????”) and a confident aura. Those are some of the building blocks of a true stud.
Emily: He seems like an All-American kind of guy. A real happy-go lucky fella. And I like his hairline.
Eddie: I’m gonna pass. I think his voice would be too deep for me. Yeah, I know I could find audio on it and make a decision on facts, but I’d rather go knee jerk reaction here. I also think he looks like he’d be cocky. He’d pretend to not be cocky but he’s not fooling me. #FullOfHimselfDud
Shane: You can really tell which members of the committee are here for basketball reasons (me) and which just know handsomeness (everyone else).
Stan: OK, this is more like it. While I think Landen is certainly a handsome guy, I’m going to tentatively say “no” for now for a couple reasons. First, I don’t think Landen makes it any other year and I’d like to see the rest of the talent. Second, he is not the most handsome Landen I know of, and I only know of two. He could sneak in at the end for me though.
Katin Reinhardt (Marquette)
Shane: Katin offers a unique scenario in All-Hansome Team history. In his college basketball career, Reinhardt has played for three different schools, but more importantly for our purposes, he’s tried every single look you could possible imagine. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.
Here he is with a buzzcut, faux hawk, and frosted friggin’ tips! He’s worn a headband, a t-shirt, one arm sleeve, and two arm sleeves. He’s sported a clean shaven face, a full beard, a bad goatee, and a nice solid scruff. He had no tattoos, then some tattoos, and now he’s got a full chest and arm sleeve of tattoos.
All of that matters, but what really matters is 2017 Marquette guard Katin Reinhardt. I’m voting “yes” for two reasons. He’s always been an attractive man, though some of his looks hid his true colors. Now? I think he’s figured it out. The high-and-tight dark hair, consistent and not out of control tattoos, and beard that looks like he just forgot to shave this week are all the right choices in 2017. He’s handsome.
Emily: He’s made some mistakes in his past. The goatee was no bueno. I didn’t like the frosted tips, though they do remind me of my husband’s hair.
Shane: Woah woah woah, let the record show the lighter streaks in my hair are naturally occurring!
Kevin: Yeah, as natural as Lonzo Ball’s shooting form.
Emily: But overall, I’m in. He’s got my vote.
Eddie: This guy looks like Boris from The Wire. I know his name was not actually Boris, but he’s Russian, so he’s Boris. In addition, all those different looks show me a real lack of self confidence. He should find his lane and stay in it. Confidence is attractive, Boris! #WireDud
Stan: I misspoke earlier. AHT hasn’t started until Eddie has deemed someone a #dud for reasons that are entirely unrelated to handsomeness. We finally have our first bonafide AHT stud for the reasons Shane mentioned above. Katin looks like he walked right out off a hip Brooklyn warehouse show runway and onto a basketball court. As Denzel Washington once said, “Katin, you’re an All-Handsome Teamer in my book.”
Kevin: Stan, truer words have never been spoken. Love to see a guy with potential finally put it all together. It’s been quite the journey for Katin, but I think he’s finally made it onto the starting lineup.
Shane: Uhhh…. guys, I found Katin’s wedding website? Are the photos adorable? OF COURSE THEY ARE.
Emily: Wow, I’m really into the aesthetic of their engagement shoot. I have no doubts this fiancee of his would support our opinions on his better look choices.
Eddie: Unpopular opinion alert: I’m gonna come right out and say I am not a fan of any engagement photos or wedding photos that aren’t just normal pictures. I don’t really get what’s going on. Case in point:
What is going on here? Is Shane sneakily pouring his beer out on the blanket? Is he filling Emily’s drink? Are the cheersing? Nobody knows. Is Emily going to get mad at me for saying this? Time will tell.
Shane: Am I happy that this has veered into my engagement photos? No. Is Emily? HELL NO. Does this have anything to do with Katin Reinhardt? I like to think that it does.
Eddie: Rest assured, it has everything to do with Katin Reinhardt.
Stan: I like your engagement pictures, Shane.
Kevin: I think we can all agree that Eddie is wrong about Katin. Also, I may have just RSVP’d to his wedding. Will keep you all posted.
Joel Berry (North Carolina)
Shane: From a guy making the right choices, to a guy making all the wrong choices, let’s talk about Joel Berry.
He’s a scoring guard, in part because defenders probably get lost in his eyes. Why exactly he thinks its a good idea to grow out his beard and hair to unruly levels is beyond me? He used to be so much more attractive:
I’m leaning “no”.
Emily: I gotta say I agree with you, but I do like him. Not only does he have cool eyes, but I like his general vibe. I’m getting a little Lenny Kravitz feeling from Joel.
Eddie: Love the second picture. That guy has his life in order, knows what I want and brings it to me before I know I want it. Something must have sparked his handsome downfall. I don’t know what but listen to me now Joel, it will get better. We are all here for you, but until you bring back you cleaner cut ways I have to say you’re out. #BadHairDud
Kevin: Also on the fence on the new looks, but the tools are all there for sure. I have always been told to dress for the job that you want, and I don’t think Joel ever heard that message or wants a role on the AHT. Clean it up.
Stan: I think we are all on the same page, Joel’s clean cut look would have made him a lock for the squad. But I am getting a big time Donald Glover vibe with the new look and nobody is hotter in the streets right now than Donald Glover. What a talent that guy is. He parlayed a Youtube sketch comedy group in the mid 2000s into his own TV show, a big time music career and the Lando Calzone role in the upcoming Han Solo flick. Despite the fact that Star Wars is Bad, that is impressive. Joel gets my vote.
Shane: Thank you for sharing the good and correct popular culture opinion Star Wars is Bad. Star Wars is, in fact, bad.
Eddie: I feel like I’m taking crazy pills with you people.
Gavin Skelly (Northwestern)
Shane: I thought he was a good looking guy. I really did. Then I saw this picture:
Now I know he’s a good looking guy! Hell yeah, let’s see that SKELLY BELLY!
Emily: He’s got a little bit of a Zach Efron thing going on. That second picture looks like a screenshot from the Real World credits sequence. “Seven strangers…picked to live in a house.”
Eddie: I don’t think he and I would get along. That hair is just a little on the preppy side to me, but this isn’t the All “I Would Fall In Love With And Take On Romantic Walks” Team. It’s the All-Handsome team and damn it if Gavin isn’t handsome. Gavin is an unfortunate name though. #PurelyOnLooksStud
Kevin: Hottie with a body.
Stan: This one is unanimous. Gavin is unquestionably handsome. He looks like the missing Lawrence brother. As someone who is on record as being a big fan of a nice head of hair, I gotta say I really respect when I see a great understated look like the one Gavin rocks. Anyone can try to grow out a luscious head of lettuce, but only the most handsome know they don’t even need to.
Jared Terrell (Rhode Island)
Shane: Sometimes there isn’t much to say. Sometimes he’s just handsome. This guy, this one right here, is just handsome. Enough said.
Kevin: *pulls out stud-finder*
*points right to Jared*
“Awww, he went to Jared!”
Emily: He’s got really good body mass. Not too thick, not too skinny, not too cut.
Shane: Is “too cut” a thing?
Emily: Yeah, it’s intimidating. He’s approachable. And I also like his hairline.
Eddie: Emily is right. His body is just right. Also he comes from up in my neck of the woods so that’s a plus. Just perfect. I’d watch him star in a movie and then I would run the Kickstarter to fund the sequel because the first one was only a cult classic despite his breakout performance. #FutureMovieStarStud
Stan: We are on a roll here. I think Jared might be the captain of this year’s team. Not only does he have great bone structure and a perfectly symmetrical face, he looks like the kinda guy you want on your Handsome squad to be the emotional leader and get everyone to perform at their most handsome.
Kevin: The only knock I have on Jared is the uniforms URI wore this year. It looked like they were wearing fanny-packs! While I have been known to rock a fanny-pack myself from time to time, the court is no place for FPs. Somebody please DM Jared and let him know that needs to change next year.
Shane: We’re all just going to move past Emily complimenting multiple guys’ hairlines?
Payton Henson (Vermont)
Shane: Stan and Emily suggested Henson while watching Vermont lose to Purdue. I wasn’t quite on board then, and after a Google Image scroll, I’m still not sure I’m in now. Convince me, friends.
Emily: I stand by it, this guy is handsome. Clean shaven, great hair, and a European suave-ness about him. I shall call him “Giovanni”. Now let’s put him on a runway (or a date with one of my friends).
Eddie: I’ll take him on a date Emily. Vermont is not too far away and my roommate did go to UVM so I have that going for me. All of that is to say, yes, I am including him on the team. I do have to ask though, what’s up with the names this year? Katin? Gavin? Payton? Joel? Come on parents! Do a better job. #UVMStud
Kevin: This guy definitely washes his apples. Flattering picture of Henson but I’m not sold either, Shane.
Stan: I stand by thinking Payton was handsome in the moment, (Steven A. Smith voice) HOWEVA, he is a little bit bland for my taste. There is no “wow” factor. If I told you Payton would go on to be a print model for ads in Podiatrists Monthly, you wouldn’t blink an eye. Not doing it for me given the stiff competition this year.
VJ Beachem (Notre Dame)
Shane: Wheeeeeeeen Irish eyes are smiling, the fans reap the benefits. He’s got the thousand watt smile and charming good looks of a second-generation Wayans nephew.
Emily: He’s got a great smile, and great lips. He’s the guy all the girls want to date on an early 90’s sitcom. And I love an initial name.
Eddie: I am not into initial names, but my initial impression of V.J is very positive. (See what I did there?) There’s kindness in those eyes. Bring him home to your parents and your mother instantly loves him. Your father, he instantly respects him. God, I hate Notre Dame, but I just might love VJ. #ParentalApprovalStud
Kevin: Eddie, you are spot on. This is the kind of guy I want my unborn daughter to marry and get those good looks swimming in my family’s gene pool. Is that weird? Maybe. Is it selfish? Possibly. Is VJ handsome? Absolutely. And at the end of the day that’s all that matters folks.
Stan: He looks like a more handsome version of T.I. I never really understood the whole T.I. thing. His music was OK at best but in a time when people were desperate for the next great Atlanta rapper, they moved too quickly to crown him the king. That was until until he was in American Gangster. He was great in that flick. And as his co-star, the late great Denzel Washington once famously said, “In addition to Katin from earlier, VJ is also an All Handsome Teamer in my book.”
Kevin: Can’t deny that I love me some T.I. and Denzel was so right when he said that. Well said.
Kanler Coker (North Carolina)
Shane: I love including a real Southern Gentleman on the AHT. A soft facial structure and the propensity to exclaim “well, golly” or “dagnabbit” are both factors in this feature.
This guy fits the bill. Swooping bangs? Check. Stereotypically good ol’ boy name? KANLER COKER! CHECK! Was a football quarterback, but wasn’t good enough to start so he just said “Well, golly, I guess it’s basketball for me now”? CHECK AND MATE.
Emily: He’s a handsome guy. I particularly like how he has the perfect blue eyes to be a Tar Heel. Personally, I like him better in shoulder pads and a helmet. To me, he’s a pretty looking quarterback, which makes him a very handsome basketball player.
Kevin: I would not be shocked to hear he picked UNC because of his eye color.
Eddie: Coker?!? I just met her?
Seriously though this guy’s name sucks and I am fed up with the crappy names so I am going to pass even though he played quarterback. I already have my quarterback love interest and he’s a much older man who stares down 25-point deficits like they’re nothing. Tom Brady. I am talking about Tom Brady. In all seriousness though, what is it about UNC that breeds multi-sport athletes? Remember Julius Peppers out there on the hardwood? I kind of do. #ExhaustedDud
Kevin: Seeing this guy in a football uniform kind of reminds me of a young Tom Brady. He is already handsome, but maybe if Kanler starts eating some avocado ice cream he’ll reach that next-level-handsomeness. Only time will tell.
Stan: There is nothing better than a two sport athlete. Bo Jackson played like 13 games in the NFL and people still talk about him like he’s Bill Brasky. People were cool with Jordan leaving basketball at the peak of his powers because they were too excited to see him hit .190 in single A ball to care. I watch Allen Iverson HS football highlights more than most people watch Law & Order reruns. Coker was already a classically handsome stud and the two sport angle sealed the deal.
The 2017 March-Madness All-Handsome Team:
Coach: Tony Bennett (Virginia)
(Editor’s note: Ever since Tony Bennett topped Jay Wright in the first year of Palestra Back, we’ve tried to cobble together a challenger for Tony to tackle, but there just is no one in the same league. Though a few were considered, none were worthy of our time or effort. Tony Forever.)
Guard – Jared Terrell (Rhode Island)
Guard – Katin Reinhardt (Marquette)
Guard/Forward – VJ Beachem (Notre Dame)
Forward – Gavin Skelly (Northwestern)
Center – Landen Lucas (Kansas)
6th Man – Payton Henson (Vermont)
Benchwarmer- Kanler Coker (North Carolina)
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.