College basketball’s annual championship regularly produces some of the most memorable moments in all of sports. (You know: Steph Curry’s legendary 2008 run with Davidson, Villanova’s championship clinching buzzer-beater in 2016, the time some Indiana cheerleaders had to grab the ball off of the backboard.) But a big part of the fun is also the scrappiness of these relatively young athletes. Along those lines, a real highlight of this year’s tourney has been the scrappy, creative grooming of many of the players: It’s a parade of tall, athletically gifted dudes who appear been staring into mirrors at their own upper lips with the knowledge that they’re about to appear on the biggest stage of their careers and are ready to stand out.
The most talked-about facial hair surely rests on the face of Drew Timme. The star Gonzaga center, who pulled his team into the lead against Memphis to secure the Zags a slot in the Sweet 16, leapt across the court sporting a ‘stache that looked like auburn-colored cosplay of Josh Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss in No Country For Old Men—another straight shooting Texan. It’s brawny, earnest, and probably holds so much sweat. Impressive as Timme’s mustache may be in its current state, its evolution is why he has the most-discussed face in NCAA basketball. Across his short career, he’s cycled through full beards, a handlebar mustache, and now this current likable ruffian look. And now that college basketball players are finally free to take on sponsorship deals, Big Mustache has taken notice. Timme moonlights as a Dollar Shave Club chin-fluencer. Decades from now, people may look back at his facial hair and see a new epoch of independence for college athletes.
But even without sponsorship deals from the world of grooming products, a crop of other players in facial hair are advancing to the next round of March Madness. North Carolina forward Brady Manek has a scary Viking raider thing going on, and his ejection from the Tar Heels’ game against Baylor after elbowing Jeremy Sochan (who, regrettably, does not have a giant beard) only reinforced that aggressive ethos. On the opposite end of the styling scale is Jaime Jaquez Jr., a UCLA star who’s spent the tournament behind a sleek goatee that has an almost Russian Revolutionary feel.
And then there’s the scrappiest one of them all. St. Peter’s University, a wee Jesuit school in Jersey City at seed 15, overcame 2-seed Kentucky. Paving the way to upset was Doug Edert, scoring 20 points for St. Peter’s. According to Edert’s father, Doug and his mustache endured some unfavorable comparisons in the lead up to the tournament—70s pornstar, Ted Lasso. But St. Peter’s is in the Sweet 16—and doubting anything Edert does now just seems foolish.