Maybe it is because it is my favorite month — I was born in March — or it could be that the NCAA National Championship tournament is the single greatest thing in all of sports. If you listened to the NR Sports Podcast, you will know that people think I am crazy for saying that, but I cannot help they have no soul. So, I will say it again, March Madness is the single greatest thing in sports. NBA Finals? Nah. World Series? Eh. Super Bowl? I’ll pass. Just give me the madness!
I sat down with some local coaches from the area in boys and girls hoops to talk a bit of March Madness and here is how they think things will shake out.
Western Reserve girls’ coach Laura Pierson has a traditional Final 4 with a west coast twist. She took North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Gonzaga with the Tar Heels coming out on top. After joing the NR Sports Podcast Bracket Challenge with many of her players, a hoodie may not be the only thing on the line.
“I have always been a UNC fan since I was a kid so I have to go with them overall,” Pierson said. “The admiration I had as a kid of both the UNC and Duke programs has also grown as I have become a coach to respect Coach K and Coach Williams. Kansas has been there before and have amazing athletes with experience. Gonzaga was No. 1 the entire second half of the year and have only lost once.”
As for the Cinderella pick, Pierson painfully chose Michigan to make it to the Sweet 16.
Western Reserve boys’ coach Chris Sheldon made his picks based on watching a total of 1 3/4 of a college basketball game this winter thanks to a busy high school schedule and breaking down film into the wee hours of the morning. But he based his picks around who is coaching the team. Wait, what? A coach picking his favorite coaches? Who would have thought?
First off, Sheldon went with Duke, West Virginia, UCLA and Oregon in the Final 4. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is Sheldon’s favorite coach and Duke is his favorite program. The combination of Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen has him seeing blue. He refuses to go against Coach K.
If there is one thing Sheldon has learned in his coaching career it is to never go against Western Virginia coach Bob Huggins. Sheldon things the style West Viriginia plays makes it hard for team to prepare for on a short turnaround. He also likes the experience Huggins has on his squad and believes it will serve them well.
Despite not seeing Oregon play yet this year, Sheldon knows they have the best player in college basketball and when you have the best player, good things always seem to happen.
Finally, UCLA is Sheldon’s last Final 4 team because of coach Steve Alford and his son Bryce.
“He demands more of his son than anyone else and it reminds me of my own father,” Sheldon said. “So this pick is all based on that alone. I think I've only seen highlights of their team on ESPN this year. I watched them last year but not this year.”
Sheldon’s Cinderella pick is based on, you guessed it, another coach. Wichita St. and coach Greg Marshall.
“Guy can flat out coach,” Sheldon said. “I love some of the things that his teams do at the offensive end of the floor. I haven't seen them one time so again picking based on coaches I respect.”
Willard girls’ coach Jon Dawson thinks this year will be chalk. He took all four No. 1 seeds in the Final 4, Duke, Kansas, Gonzaga and North Carolina. In the 75 years of March Madness, it has only happened once, in 2008. Dawson took Duke to win it all.
“I think they are playing the best right now and as a big Coach K fan I just can't pick against them,” Dawson said.
He admitted Marquette could have been in Cinderella team had it not ran into Duke along the way so he is going with Nevada as a Sweet 16 team pick.
As for my picks, for what they are worth, I am going with Duke, West Virginia, Louisville and North Carolina in the Final 4. Just like everyone else, I love Coach K and what he is able to get out of his players. I think Kennard is one of the best players in the country and being an Ohio native, I would love to see him succeed.
West Virginia is a team I really enjoy watching. It have some very good wins under its belt knocking off Kansas and Baylor when both teams were the No. 1 teams in the country. Louisville is always a very fun tournament team to watch year in and year out. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see a long tournament run yet again.
And finally, as much as this pains me as a Duke fan, I am taking North Carolina to the Final 4. Roy Williams is up there with the best coaches in teh country and with a team that was heartbroken in the finals last season, the Tar Heels could make it back again.
I am going with Duke as my National Champ for the obvious Coach K reasons.
My Cinderella team Florida Gulf Coast. Jam City is back and I think they can get by an up-and-down Florida State team and I think Xavier will upset Maryland with FGC coming out on top of a matchup between double-digit seeds.
March Madness Tips
If you need some help filling out that bracket, well that’s what I am here for. Here are a few things to keep in mind when filling out that winning bracket.
1. First of all, this one is a no brainer, but never pick a 16 over a 1. It has never happened and likely never will. Of course as soon as I say that, it will happen.
2. Be careful of your upset picks. They happen every year so it is a given you must pick some, but most of the time, taking upsets hurt you. If you are like me, the upsets you take don’t happen and the upsets you do not pick, happen. Also avoid taking two upsets in the same region. Odds are if you take too many upsets, you get stuck having a matchup of two upset teams and lose points if neither of them happen.
3. Limit the damage. The less Sweet 16 teams you lose, the better. Don’t put too much concentration on the first round games as those are worth less points than later rounds so try to avoid making picks that will cause you to lose multiple games in later rounds.
4. Since the beginning of the tournament, only four double-digit seeds have made it to the Final 4. Syracuse did it last year, but don’t bank on it happening or you picking the right team to do it.
5. In the last 13 years, only one team that won the National Championship (Louisville) did not have blue in its school colors.
6. Don’t plan on being perfect. There is only a one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance fill out the perfect bracket.