Columbia leaders share NCAA tournament picks

Still fun without Tigers
Thursday, March 17, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:39 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The brackets that arrived on the fax machine Wednesday weren’t for the office pool. They were for publication.

The Missourian asked five well-known residents to give their predictions for this year’s NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament and then explain their picks.

None claimed to be experts, but they’re good sports for taking part. They even agreed to check in as the tournament progresses.

Here’s what they had to say:

“In years past, I tried to guess upsets based on gut instinct,” said Brian Ash, owner of Bambino’s and 6th Ward Council Member. “This year, I tried to approach it more scientifically.”

When choosing his bracket, Ash said he compared winning percentage to the ratings percentage index ranking, which uses a team’s winning percentage, schedule strength and opponent’s schedule strength.

If one team had a better winning percentage and the other had a better RPI ranking, Ash consulted ESPN’s Web site to break the tie. Ash said he predicts Illinois will be the national champion.

Not all of his teams were not chosen objectively.

“My wife’s parents are big Illini fans,” Ash said.

Because the championship is in St. Louis this year, Illinois’ team is closer to home and Ash said he thinks that might make a difference.

When asked how he feels about Missouri being absent from the championship this year, Ash said it was disappointing.

“I’m sorry to see the season be over,” Ash said.

Rabbi Yossi Feintuch at Congregation Beth Shalom also said the Tigers absence disappointed him, but he predicts North Carolina will be the national champion.

“My wife went to school there before she met me, but she was able to convert me to root for them,” Feintuch said.

“(Coach Roy Williams is) bringing back the Dean Smith spirit to the school,” Feintuch said. “He’s a familiar face. We used to see him when he coached Kansas. So, there’s some emotional investment.”

Stephens College basketball coach Dane Pavlovich said he considered his roots when choosing a champion.

“I’m from Kansas, and this is probably not going to make a lot of people happy, but I did pick Kansas to win it all,” Pavlovich said. “I just have a good feeling about the senior-laden team. They have a ton of tournament experience at a high level.”

Pavlovich also predicts Wake Forest, Illinois and Syracuse will make it to the Final Four.

“Illinois has been so hot all year, I just see them continuing to play well,” Pavlovich said. “I picked (Syracuse) years ago when they won with Carmelo Anthony … I can see them getting hot again.”

Phyllis Chase, the superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, also predicts Illinois will be the next national champion because she says they have good defense and good offense.

Despite graduating from KU, Chase said she has little hope for the Jayhawks.

“I just don’t think (Kansas) is going to make it,” she said. “Kansas is good but sometimes they’re a bit overrated. They’ll get to the top sixteen or so but I think that will be it.”

Like Ash, Chase said she was unhappy about Missouri’s absence from the tournament.

“We were very sad for Missouri, but there’s always next year,” she said.

The Rev. Jim Bryan of United Methodist Church chose Illinois, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke to make it to the Final Four, with Duke to win it all. He based his prediction on the team’s reputation.

“They’ve got a track record,” he said. “They’ve got the best coach in college basketball. They have simply proven time and time again that they can pull it out.”

Although Duke is his pick for the national champion, Bryan said his favorite team is Oklahoma State.

“Eddie Sutton … what a proven record,” Bryan said. “They won the Big 12 and I’m always behind the Big 12.”

Bryan is most looking forward to a game between North Carolina and Kansas, a match-up that would pit Williams against his former team. Bryan predicts the game will happen.

“That will be an extraordinary game.”

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