We all missed the NCAA Tournament in 2020. The cancellation of the most fun event on the sports calendar was a brutal blow to basketball fans everywhere.
Here at Palestra Back, we were heart-broken. Of course we would miss the upsets, the Cinderellas, the buzzer-beaters, brackets, and Fantasy Shootout. For us, though, there was one more thing we missed out on.
The annual Palestra Back March Madness All-Handsome Team.
This is a tradition that began as dorm room banter but has now become a regular fixture of this blog’s existence. It doesn’t feel like March unless we get to name the best looking guys in the tournament. Last year, we didn’t get that chance. We could have done a year-in-review All-Handsome Team for college basketball, but it wouldn’t be the same. Making the tournament and making a name for yourself is a big part of getting noticed by the committee. Plus, some members of the committee were in tears upon learning there would be no tournament and in no shape to vote.
A year later, we’re as ready as ever to scan the bracket and find the studs and hunks in the NCAA bubble in Indianapolis. Joining me, as always, is a stellar committee of friends (Stan, Kevin, and Eddie) and my wife (Emily) to keep us in check.
And oh by the way, if you love the All-Handsome Team, we sell shirts, stickers, mugs, and such with that written on it. Great way to let people know you are handsome, and according to my research, every Palestra Back reader is a perfect ten.
Ochai Agbaji – Kansas
Shane: Ochai? More like Oh my! All-time no brainer in my book. Every year it can be tough to find good mid-game action shots where these guys look good. Agbaji was the opposite. I can’t find a picture where he looks bad. He looks like they hired a model to play a basketball player in a movie.
Eddie: My guy Ochai has some soft features in his face that make me feel warm inside and complements them with some muscular shoulders. I could cradle my head in there like he’s cradling that basketball. Kansas was a real disaster for my bracket, but I will let Ochai take me out to make up for it.
Stan: I want to lead off by saying I haven’t watched a full game of the tournament yet, and I don’t plan to. All of these takes are unbiased, unfiltered and unregulated. That said, Ochai is a prettier version of Giannis Antetokounmpo, which means unless there is an unreasonably handsome crop this year, he is a shoo-in to make my squad.
Kevin: Great call, Stan. I was trying to figure out why he looked so familiar! If his basketball career doesn’t pan out Ochai has a lucrative modeling career to easily pivot to.
Emily: He’s very handsome. He looks destined to be a model in ads for athletic wear. Plus, great eyebrows that work with his blemish-free face and cut shoulders.
Shane: Every year she brings up eyebrows!
MaCio Teague – Baylor
Shane: Hall of Fame level smile when he flashes it. We do not love the goatee and the reddish-ness in his hair is interesting, but neither is a dealbreaker. His go-to celebration appears to be some sort of fake phone call thing. There’s a ton of pictures of him breaking that move out. If he’s calling your girlfriend, you might want to confirm her whereabouts.
Eddie: The smile is a winner. I can’t argue with that. He is not calling anyone’s girlfriend though. Apparently he is calling God. I put in the research and you can listen to the whole story right here (7:25-9:53). It’s a mediocre tale that involves his brother, Christmas break, and Antonio Brown. The tragedy of it? Turns out he’s a Bengals fan. Well, at least he has his looks.
Stan: Hey MaCio, God called, he wants that angelic smile back. While the smile is second to none, and he IS handsome, I am just not sure if he is All-Handsome.
Emily: Jeez, tough crowd. I don’t care if he’s a Bengals fan or not. It’s not being factored into my decision making. He’s handsome.
Kevin: I’m on the fence with MaCio. He’s got the foundation needed to be in the running for the AHT with the smile as you guys pointed out, but may need another year or two to develop those guns and turn into a real contender.
Corey Kispert – Gonzaga
Shane: Corey’s freshman year I suggested he might be the first ever four-time All-Handsome Team performer. I think he was on the fringe a few times but this year, he’s at his best. I worry that his appeal is more of a sexy swagger than actual facial structure-based handsomeness, but I mean, come on. Like, COME ON. It has to help that his girlfriend is a star on the Zags’ women’s team too. What other couple is out there combining for 32 points and 13 rebounds on a nightly basis??
Eddie: I don’t know what I said about Corey in the past, but he does look familiar. I hope I was harsh though because not only do I not find Corey attractive, I find him upsetting to look at. The hair, the headband, and the stupid looks he has on his face make him a hard pass for me.
Kevin: The verdict is finally in and Cory is JAG status (Just Another Guy). Not bad looking at all. But not worthy of the AHT title.
Stan: I remember Corey as well, though I truly have no recollection of what I thought. If I had to guess, I bet I said he was promising but not yet worthy of the title. After further review, it is a big time NO for me. Another sad case of Gonzaga favoritism from the crew over at Palestra Back.
Shane: Guilty as charged.
Emily: I like the love story in his background. Shows he’s not just good looking, but capable of maintaining a relationship, which adds to his appeal.
Stan: Emily, we’re supposed to be objectifying these boys. Topple the patriarchy!
Yves Pons – Tennessee
Shane: This might be the best looking All-Handsome Team in history. Look at this man. He’s a statue. His body is RIDICULOUS. He’s also a French Renaissance Man who has plenty of interests away from basketball. If you didn’t think he was handsome before, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you:
Lastly, we are NOT here to talk about the wives and girlfriends of these players (or WAGs in Euro parlance). That is not our game. However, Yves Pons and his wife are GOALZ or whatever kids say these days.
Plus, we love the SEO bump for “Yves Pons wife” searchers to find their way here.
Kevin: Yes!! Handsome!!
Eddie: Orange isn’t doing Yves any favors, but those cheekbones do not require any. They make me happy all over. And all these ball cradling pictures are making it so easy for me to picture a cozy night on the couch with these guys, which is what weekends have been for the last year, so that’s important.
Stan: I think it’s important that big men get proper representation on the All-Handsome Team and we don’t just pick a bunch of squirmy 5’11 guards with great smiles and nice hair. We need MUSCLE and GRIT and Yves has both in spades. Dunk me through the hardwood, daddy.
Emily: He’s got a lot going for him. Cheekbones. Herculean body. Musical talent. The real props go to Mrs. Pons for talking him into matching outfits for that photoshoot.
Isaiah Miller – UNCG
Shane: I’m going to credit Stan with Miller’s inclusion here. I noticed him in UNCG’s conference tournament win and again in their loss to Florida State, but wasn’t convinced he earned a spot here. Stan argued otherwise. Make your case!
Eddie: Mark this one down in the record books folks: I would like to give Stan some major compliments for this pick. All-around handsome man from head to toe. And what seals the deal for me is the passionate, almost joyful intensity. A quick Google search shows that this picture of Isaiah is no fluke. He clearly gets the fellas going on the court, and he’s got everyone going off the court too, if you catch my drift.
Stan: Wow, this is a big moment for me and Eddie. We have had a tenuous relationship ever since I [redacted] him while he was [redacted] on the [redacted] at Shane’s Bachelor party. Isaiah looks like he has the perfect blend of athletic intensity on the court and a cool, unassuming vibe off of it. There are Shake Milton vibes for sure. Definitely on my ballot.
Shane: I need people to know that the information being redacted is not very scandalous.
Eddie: Stan, the answer to your question from the redacted event in question: Pedro Martinez.
Emily: Let’s get back on track. First off, I like that he’s from a smaller school. Extra points for being under-the-radar. Classically handsome. His look works yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Also, I have no comment on the bachelor party talk above.
Kevin: I also have no comment on the Bachelor party, other than “watermelon.” Great job, Stan. I’m proud of you. Isaiah is a very handsome man.
Shane: Again, not scandalous. We bought a watermelon. Stop trying to get me cancelled!
Carlos Jurgens – Oral Roberts
Shane: We’ve reached the “Estonian Guys with Tat Sleeves Named Carlos” portion of the proceedings. Not positive he’s handsome, but I will note that this man’s eyes are BAAAAH-LUUUUUUUUE , if you’re into that sort of thing.
Eddie: Is this the all-waste-my-time team? No. Handsome men only moving forward, please.
Stan: I was totally out when I assumed he was kicked out of Ridley High School for smoking Black ‘n Milds in the teachers lounge. Knowing he is Estonian helps with the context, but still don’t think he is handsome enough to be in consideration.
Emily: I would like to have a different aesthetic on the team. European, tatted up. Nice change of pace. Plus he’s kept his hair trimmed nicely through quarantine.
Kevin: Emily’s right, it’s always nice to mix in that Euro-vibe to the squad. But Carlos is not our man.
Micah Potter – Wisconsin
Shane: That’s a handsome guy. Not sure we need to say much more here. Do you want my opinion on Micah’s performance against the elite big men of the Big Ten? That’s not why we’re here today.
Eddie: Handsome but, like every god damn Wisconsin sports team: BORING! For a team with a nickname as good as the Badgers and with a mascot in fun a sweater, Wisconsin is always the worst team to watch in everything always. Plus, for some reason the W logo on their football helmets gives me a headache. Hard pass. Also his haircut makes his hair look too small for his head. Something is off up there.
Stan: Yeah I am not feeling it. He looks like if you were making a classic “All-American Golden Boy” type in a lab, but realized at the last minute you didn’t have the right ingredients and decided to wing it.
Kevin: That’s what I was going to say, he has a Shane-vibe!! I thought we were supposed to be unbiased here…
Shane: I’ll be right back, I’m taking that compliment to the damn bank.
Emily: Wisconsin players are hard to judge. They’re all kind of the same. One vibe for the whole roster and we watched a lot of Badgers games this year.
Stan: My heart goes out to Emily, who is regularly forced to watch 47-44 Wisconsin-Rutgers games while Shane is hooting and hollering about a well-executed bounce pass. Em, if you ever need a safe place to unwind and watch some mindless reality television, you’re always welcome. I have Paramount+ and I’m watching MTV’s The Challenge: The Ruins as I type this!
Ben Vander Plas – Ohio
Shane: Possibly controversial pick here. I’m going to pass this one off to the wife, who said “He’s got something, in a certain way,” during the Bobcats upset win over Virginia. I can’t say disagree. But is it actual good looks or just bad boy charm? It’s worth noting: the flow and the scraggly beard are new for BVP. He used to look like a Hallmark movie leading man:
Emily: I standby my nomination. I liked his background story too! In the first round he played against his childhood best friend and he was named after Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s dad. It’s not just looks sometimes. There’s more to the story!
Stan: It’s not just about looks sometimes, Emily? Explains how you ended up with Mr. Palestra Back over there? It’s a joke!
Ben is a worse version of the last four white dudes that I just roasted. He’s doing absolutely nothing for me. No thanks!
Eddie: Woah. What a difference. It’s interesting you said bad boy though, because he was giving me more try-hard dweeb vibes like Riley from National Treasure. And seeing his original look and new look only further confirms that for me. I don’t want any pretenders on my all-handsome team. Plus, Riley is the same guy who gets left on the roof in The Hangover so I assume Ben’s friends don’t really care about him either.
Kevin: I disagree, I see what Emily is saying. There’s definitely something here and the “Sons of Anarchy” vibe is working for me. Keep it up, Ben.
Javion Hamlet – North Texas
Shane: He’s a looker. Maybe more of a cutie than a hunk? But I think he’s got a good shot here.
Kevin: Hansdome and cute, for sure.
Eddie: Everything I ever wanted and more. The opposite of Ben, Javion is effortlessly handsome. He doesn’t need to play around with his look to try and make the team. He was born to be an all-handsome hunk.
Stan: At first glance I was all in, but a further deep dive reveals his smile is a little too mousey for my liking. That said, he is undeniably handsome with a bit of charm on the side. This one will be a game time decision.
Emily: I agree. I think he’s pretty cute and think he’d be fun to hang out with after a quick Google search.
For the first time in the history of this annual tradition, I actually let the other members of the committee vote instead of just providing input. Here is how the votes shook out, leaving us a great All-Handsome Team:
Guard: Isaiah Miller, UNCG
Guard: Javion Hamlet, North Texas
Guard/Forward: MaCio Teague, Baylor
Guard/Forward: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas (unanimous selection)
Center: Yves Pons, Tennessee (unanimous selection)
Honorable mention: Ben Vander Plas (Ohio) and Corey Kispert (Gonzaga)
Who did we miss? Who would you have voted for? Leave a comment or tweet at me!
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and senior writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to ESPN.com, The Action Network, Rush The Court, Larry Brown Sports, RotoBaller, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. You can find every post from this blog on Twitter by following @PalestraBack.