Who conquers the Madness? Local gurus offer insights

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Coach Kris Freeland instructs his Dundy County-Stratton Tigers during the Class D-1 state tournament last week. The Tigers went 23-4 with district, RPAC and Cattle Trail tourney titles. Freeland then offered his picks for the upcoming NCAA men's tournament.

A 5-foot-5 hero lifting Mount St. Mary’s to victory Tuesday had the Gazette’s own 5’4 3/4” R.B. Headley leaping high enough that he almost cleared his nearest dropped pizza box.

“My living room transcends into a tasty obstacle course for about three weeks, great way to burn a few carbs,” Rigorous Beefeater Headley admitted.

“I wasn’t surprised a 5’5” player could dominate the basketball court. Dad always posted us up and hit classic Kareem sky-hook shots.”

Round Belly was promptly brought to earth when Kansas State knocked off Danny Manning’s Wake Forest Deacons during the second “play-in” Big Dance game Tuesday night.

Rarely Brilliant not only had the Demon Deacons beating K-State, but also Cincinnati during Friday’s “real” first round.

“One pet peeve is why they call round one round two just because of these ‘play-in’ games Tuesday and tonight,” Ramblin Blabberhead lamented.

“This isn’t a real first round. I don’t really get the point actually, 64 teams are enough. But hey, it’s this or cleaning the house on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.”

Yet with his bracket already somewhat busted (big surprise), Rumblin’ Bumblin’ turned to area basketball gurus for better tournament insights.

Only two responded as of this morning, showing how much regard they have for being on the Gazette sports pages.

“Hey, I’d be flying helicopters instead if someone would give me a shot,” R.B. revealed.

Anyhoo, take a good look at what the two area hoops leaders expect for this year’s tourney.

Freeland’s first-round upsets:

“South Dakota State over Gonzaga! Who would see that one coming? Michael Daum from Kimball lighting it up! Can you say Cinderella, baby?”

Round Belly note: Daum’s a 6’9” sharpshooter who’s an NBA prospect and Summit Conference Player of the Year who somehow ended up not playing for Big Red in Lincoln.

Back to Freeland:

“My favorite sleeper has to be Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans (seeded ninth).”

Freeland’s Final Four: Arizona, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas.

His national champion?

“My national champion is North Carolina, again from the heart and not the head.”

He clearly agrees with R.B.’s annual proclamation: anyone but Duke.

Jeremy Yilk

The McCook High boys’ basketball coach offered a pair of first-round stunners:

No. 13 Winthrop over the No. 4 Butler Bulldogs;

No. 11 Rhode Island Rams over No. 6 Creighton (sorry, Omaha Bluejay fan base).

Yilk’s also daring enough to proclaim a few big, bad teams who won’t achieve the Final Four goal others are predicting:

Gonzaga (a perennial Round Belly Headley favorite), Duke (eternally despised by Heels fans like R.B.) and UCLA (Bill Walton will not be pleased).

Enough negative viges inspired thanks to R.B.’s questions:

J.Y.’s real Final Four: Villanova, Arizona, Kansas and Duke.

Ultimate national champion:

The Kansas Jayhawks.

Hey, they’ve been digging out of 10-point holes all season, it would be fun to see K.U. do that in six straight tournament games.

So that’s it. One more check of recent E-Mails show no other hoops gurus submitted picks today.

There was one bonus question connected with our Big Red basketball:

What happens first: Nebraska’s men reach a Sweet 16 or a No. 16 seed knocks off No. 1?

“I’d say a 16 over a 1,” Freeland declared. “Because it could happen this year (in reference to South Dakota State over Gonzaga).

“I’ll go with Nebraska making a Sweet 16,” Yilk concluded.

Watch for more possible picks on Thursday.

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