• October 25, 2014

Area basketball coaches see no clear favorite in 68-team NCAA tourney field

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Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 4:30 am

In one of the most unpredictable college basketball seasons in recent memory, a sampling of local coaches held true to form, with no consensus on which team will cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium next month.

Four different coaches. Four different picks — ranging from the No. 1 overall seed to a No. 4 seed.

To be clear, less than four hours after the bracket was announced, each coach said he hadn’t had a chance to see the entire field.

But in the spirit of March Madness, each still dished on his favorite to win it all.

Salado coach Kenny Mann knows what it takes to win a championship after leading the Eagles to an unbeaten District 22-2A title this past season.

Yet when it came to his national champion pick, Mann deferred to the selection committee.

“I probably go along with everybody else and say Florida,” Mann said.

Why?

“I don’t know — really to be honest with you I haven’t followed them that closely,” Mann said with a laugh. “I’m just jumping on the bandwagon.”

Emund Prichett, who came a game within winning a district title of his own in his first season as Shoemaker head coach, went in a different direction.

The selection committee

didn’t give red-hot Louisville the most respect, pegging the defending national champion as a four-seed, but Prichett liked the Cardinals to repeat as champions.

“I just think they play better defense,” Prichett said, “and they’ve got the championship pedigree.”

Prichett also mentioned Florida as a team to watch, along with ACC champion Virginia.

“And Michigan State,” he added, “you can’t forget about them.”

Gatesville head coach Thomas Winkler was surprised to find out two of his favorites had been placed in the same region.

Yet when asked to pick between top-seeded Wichita State and No. 3 seed Duke in the Midwest Region, Winkler went with the Blue Devils.

“I always hate to bet against Duke,” Winkler said. “I think Coach K does an unbelievable job having the guys prepared for every situation.”

Not having seen the bracket didn’t stop Winkler from giving his sleeper pick either.

“I think Oklahoma State might,” Winkler said. “I think Marcus Smart is going to feel like he has something to prove right now. He’s been incredible since coming back from his suspension.”

In order to make a run, Oklahoma State will likely have to beat the No. 1 seed in the West region, Arizona — the team Florence head coach Danny Wood picked as his favorite.

“(They’ve) just been consistent all season long,” Wood said. “(They’re) one of the better teams.”

None of the coaches, however, was keen on the local teams — except for one.

“My sentimental favorite is going to be Baylor,” Mann said.

“I think they’re going to be better than people think. Hopefully, they can go far.”

The fact that Mann expressed hope, rather than confidence, in the Big 12 runner-up Bears was an acknowledgement that anything can happen in the Big Dance — particularly this season.

Thus, it was only fitting that between four coaches, no favorite or sleeper pick was the same.

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