Local coaches lean toward ACC, for the most part

By: W. Curt Vincent - Bladen Journal

With the 2018 version of March Madness already underway, fans in North Carolina have six schools with berths in the field — five in the 64-team bracket and one, N.C. Central, that was part of the eight-team play-in bracket.

That’s helped create the annual flurry of office and bar pools, as college basketball “experts” try to win some money or at least earn some bragging rights among co-workers or friends by selecting not only the overall winner of the men’s tournament, but gather enough points along the way with early winners.

As expected here in the Carolinas, the ACC is getting most of the attention for Final Four picks — from Virginia, the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, to Duke and North Carolina, both No. 2 seeds, and even No. 9 seed N.C. State.

With a little different perspective on the tournament, local varsity basketball coaches in Bladen County recently weighed in with their picks.

Brian McCleney, West Bladen Lady Knights

“I’m a huge UNC fan, but I think Michigan State or Villanova will win,” he said. “Defense is my key.

“Outside of the top four seeds in each region, I think Houston can make a good run.”

Patty Evers, East Bladen Lady Eagles

“I am going with Virginia, Villanova, Michigan State and UNC (in the Final Four),” she said. “However, I think that Gonzaga and Duke could make the Final Four.

“My pick to win it all … Villanova.”

Travis Pait, West Bladen Knights

“No favorite this year — 16 teams can win,” he said. “Sleeper is Kentucky (but) don’t count Virginia out — defense and toughness.”

Ken Cross, Paul R. Brown Bulldogs

“I’m going with Virginia because of their defense and their four-year players,” he said. “I think Villanova, Duke and Carolina will get to the Final Four, but Virginia will win it all.

“My darkhorse is Kentucky,” he added. “Those five starting freshmen are good.”

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March Madness FACToids

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— About 51 million office workers join office pools.

— Employers will lose about $1.3 billion in pay to employees filling out brackets and watching games live.

— The total loss of productivity could approach $4 billion.

— The overall No. 1 has won the title as often as it has been eliminated in the round of 32 … three times each.

— The last time all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four was 2008 (Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Memphis). It’s also the only time in history that has happened.

— Looking for an upset? Of course the “experts” look at the No. 5-12 matchups first, where the No. 12 seed has won at least one game in 29 of the past 33 years. But don’t forget the No. 6-11 matchups, where the No. 11 seeds have won at least three of the four games over the past two tournaments.

— The average wager for a pool entry nation-wide is $29.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or cvincent@bladenjournal.com.

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W. Curt Vincent

Bladen Journal