Craig residents ready for bracket busting challenges

A panel of local hoops aficionados weighs in on the NCAA tournament. The numbers in parentheses are seeds and the panel’s picks are below:

Craig Mortensen, former Moffat County High School boys and girls basketball coach

National champion: Ohio State (1)

Potential champions: Connecticut (3), BYU (3) and San Diego State (2)

Sleeper pick: Gonzaga (11)

Matt Ray, Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball coach

Final Four: North Carolina (2), Duke (1), Kansas (1) and BYU (3)

National champion: Duke

Upset picks: Michigan State (10) over UCLA (7) and Kentucky (4) over Ohio State (1)

David Bradshaw, Moffat County High School boys varsity basketball coach

Final Four: Ohio State (1), Duke (1), Kansas (1) and Pittsburgh (1)

National champion: Kansas

Sleeper pick: George Mason (8)

Sara Linsacum, Moffat County High School girls junior varsity basketball coach

Final Four: Ohio State (1), Texas (4), Kansas (1) and Pittsburgh (1)

National champion: Kansas

Upset picks: Texas over Duke (1), St. John’s (6) over BYU (3) and Missouri (11) over Cincinnati (6)

Chet Harvey, Moffat County High School senior and boys varsity basketball player

Final Four: Ohio State (1), Connecticut (3), Notre Dame (2) and St. John’s (6)

National champion: Connecticut

Sleeper pick: St. John’s

Lauren Roberts, Moffat County High School senior and girls varsity basketball player

Final Four: Syracuse (3), Duke (1), Kansas (1) and BYU (3)

National champion: Duke

Sleeper pick: Butler (8)

On Sunday night, the annual NCAA men’s basketball postseason tournament bracket was released with many surprises and snubs.

Sports enthusiasts around the country will scramble until Thursday morning when the first game of the second round tips off around 10 a.m. to pick their Final Four teams and the team that will try to fit into Cinderella’s shoes.

With many online options for bracket challenges and offices hosting their own pools, there is no lack of places to get your picks into.

Carelli’s Pizzeria & Pasta, 465 Yampa Ave., is a local outlet for picks.

Owner Brett Etzler said he wanted to have a challenge for anyone to enter.

“Everyone does it and people can bring their brackets in for us to run,” Etzler said. “We will hang the brackets around the restaurant for all to see and keep track.”

The cost of entry is $10 per bracket and there is no limit on the amount of brackets that may be entered by one person.

Each correct pick in the second and third rounds will be worth one point, the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight round games are worth two points, and the Final Four games and championship game will be worth four points.

The top three point earners when the tournament concludes April 4 with the national championship game will win cash prizes.

The cash amount will depend on how many people enter the tournament.

Etzler said he enjoys filling out brackets because he is a big college basketball fan.

“I have Indiana origins, so (college basketball) is in my blood,” he said. “Even though the Hoosiers didn’t make it this year, it is a fun thing to do.

“I’ll probably be putting in two brackets myself.”

Brackets can be picked up at Carelli’s and must be turned in by 10 a.m. Thursday.

Local basketball enthusiasts make their picks

Retired Moffat County High School basketball coach Craig Mortensen said he was shocked when the brackets were announced Sunday and the Colorado Buffalos weren’t included.

“It was a disappointment they didn’t get in,” Mortensen said.

Mortensen said this year’s bracket is a tough one to call, but he sees the Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes, who were awarded the number one overall seed, cutting down the nets in April.

“(Ohio State) has good balance in the inside and outside game,” he said. “They have depth off the bench and strong strength of schedule.”

Other possible championship contenders, Mortensen said, are third-seeded University of Connecticut and Brigham Young University and two seed San Diego State University.

“Connecticut is playing well and has Kemba Walker,” he said. “Jimmer Fredette for BYU can’t be stopped when he gets hot.”

Despite the early favorites, Mortensen said he likes the 11th-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs to win a few games.

“I like the way (Gonzaga) plays and the way they are coached,” he said. “They aren’t afraid of anyone as shown by their preseason schedule.”

The coach who took over for Mortensen, Matt Ray, has Mortensen’s favorite not even making the Final Four.

“I like North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and BYU to make the Final Four,” Ray said. “I have Duke beating Kansas for the title because they are pretty good. Kansas is tough, but I’ve always liked Duke.”

In one Final Four match-up, Ray said he would like to see Duke take on North Carolina, two rivals from the Atlantic Coast Conference, and beat them for a third time this season.

Ray, however, didn’t see too many upsets in this year’s bracket, choosing only a few lower seeds including Michigan State (10) over UCLA (7) and Kentucky (4) over Ohio State.

Ray’s colleague, MCHS boys varsity basketball coach David Bradshaw, chose all four number one seeds — Ohio State, Duke, Kansas and Pittsburgh — to advance to the Final Four.

An all number one seed Final Four has only happened once since 1979, in 2008 when Kansas defeated Memphis in overtime, 75-68, to win the national championship.

After all is said and done, Bradshaw said he likes the Jayhawks to avenge last year’s early exit.

“Kansas got knocked out early last year and I think they will be hungry for a title,” he said. “They have to have a bad taste in their mouth.”

Kansas lost in the second round last season to ninth-seeded Northern Iowa.

Sara Linsacum, the MCHS girls junior varsity basketball team’s head coach, also likes Kansas to win it all this year.

“Kansas is usually the team getting upset,” she said. “I love Kansas and I always say they are going to win.”

Linsacum had a little more fun with her bracket, picking lower seeds St. John’s (6), Texas (4) and Missouri (11) to beat a higher ranked team in the first weekend.

MCHS senior Chet Harvey, a starter for the boys team last season, picked the most diverse Final Four, with only one number one seed in Ohio State advancing to the final weekend.

Along with the Buckeyes, Harvey chose Connecticut, Notre Dame and St. John’s to advance to Houston.

“I think St. John’s will beat out BYU in the second round,” he said. “Fredette has to get cold at some point.”

Fredette averaged 28.5 points per game during the season.

Fellow senior Lauren Roberts, who helped lead the girls team to the second round of the state playoffs, followed in her coach’s footsteps in picking Duke to win the national title.

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