Hoops and—spoiler alert!—Rings: Where to Watch March Madness

The Fiancé (yes, we made it official last Friday; check back Thursday for a full report) forced me to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket over dinner last week. All I knew was to err on the side of loyalty and pick my alma mater, KU, to win the Big Dance—but I know plenty about bars. In preparation for the Sweet 16, I’ve rounded up a list of top-notch NCAA-watching spots: watering holes associated with schools still in the hunt for this year’s national championship. Because no one likes to cheer—or jeer—alone…

The Fiancé (yes, we made it official last Friday; check back Thursday for a full report) forced me to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket over dinner last week. All I knew was to err on the side of loyalty and pick my alma mater, KU, to win the Big Dance—but I know plenty about bars. In preparation for the Sweet 16, I’ve rounded up a list of top-notch NCAA-watching spots: watering holes associated with schools still in the hunt for this year’s national championship. Because no one likes to cheer—or jeer—alone. Have recommendations of your own? Post them below.

University of Louisville: Junior’s Sports Lounge in University Village (from the same folks as Cans and the retooled Le Passage, among others) takes its game days seriously. The bar supports Louisville (and Kansas) fans with specials including $4 22-ounce Miller Lite drafts and chances to win a PS3. Plus, get 20 percent off your bill with proof you attended KU or Louisville. Louisville plays Tennessee 8:57 p.m. Thursday the 27th.

University of Kansas: Don’t want to share bar stools (or glory) with Louisville fans? KU alums flock to Kincade’s, a bi-level Lincoln Park bar that caters to Jayhawks—especially Friday the 28th, when the spot offers specials including $3.50 Goose Island 312 drafts, $5 Effen cocktails, and a free buffet from 5 to 7 p.m. Kansas plays Villanova 8:40 p.m. Friday the 28th.

Turns out there are a lot of local alums not quite ready to relinquish the KU afterglow. Another popular Jayhawks hangout is Lottie’s Pub in Bucktown, the unofficial home of the University of Kansas Alumni Association. Specials include $5 22-ounce Miller Lites, $6 schooners, 25 cent wings, and giveaways from T-shirts to jerseys to koozies. Kansas plays Villanova 8:40 p.m. Friday the 28th.

Texas: Part of the Four Corners Tavern Group (Schoolyard, Gaslight, Sidebar, Kirkwood and WestEnd), Brownstone Tavern & Grill in North Center is home to Texans with big appetites. Drink specials during games at all of the group’s bars include $4 22-ounce Miller Lites and $3 bottles of all Miller beers. Plus, raffle prizes include an iPhone, Nintendo Wii, and Guitar Hero. Plus, on April 7th, each of the six bars will give away a 42-inch plasma TV. Texas plays Stanford 6:27 p.m. Friday the 28th.

Michigan State: It’s easy being green at DePaul-area hangout The Gin Mill (2462 N. Lincoln Ave.), home base for former Spartans. Inside, you’ll find oodles of plasma TVs, plus drink specials including $8 domestic pitchers, and $2 Labatt Blue and Bud Select bottles. Michigan State plays Memphis 8:57 p.m. Friday the 28th.

UCLA: Chicago stomping grounds for alums of both the University of Illinois (which didn’t make it to the tournament) and Indiana University (which didn’t make it very far), Joe’s Sports Bar could seem cursed. But the 20,000-square-foot bar pledges to throw its allegiance—via its 100 TVs, including 14 10-foot screens—behind UCLA. Which makes watching anywhere else just plain superstitious. UCLA plays Western Kentucky 8:40 p.m. Thursday the 27th.

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Dedicated Badger bar Waterhouse Tavern and Grill is home to all things red and white—including game-day drink specials of $8 Bud Light pitchers and $5 Bacardi bombs. Wisconsin plays Davidson 6:10 p.m. Friday the 28th.

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