Millions will be filling out a men’s basketball NCAA Tournament bracket this week. Some watch college basketball religiously and use complex data sets to determine which team has the best chance of winning each round. Others fill out their bracket by choosing which school’s mascot is scariest. (Fun fact: The latter strategy always wins office brackets).
Still others fill out their brackets on national TV. This is what Barack Obama did during his presidency. ESPN basketball analyst Andy Katz, formerly of the Albuquerque Journal, would film the segment with Obama each March. (Here are Obama’s picks for the 2023 tournament).
Mirroring the Katz-Obama template, current Albuquerque Journal reporter Geoff Grammer recently interviewed a star filling out their NCAA Tournament bracket.
Jack Pitino, 8, “knows all about basketball,” said his father, Richard Pitino, head coach of New Mexico. Though the Lobos won’t be playing in the NCAA Tournament this year, Jack still has some rooting interests. His grandfather, Rick Pitino, is head coach at Iona, a 13 seed in the West region. And Jack watched his dad coach against seven tournament teams this year (No. 5 San Diego State, No. 10 Utah State, No. 10 Boise State, No. 11 Nevada, No. 5 Saint Mary’s, No. 12 Oral Roberts and Iona).
While Richard was in the locker room game-planning for Utah Valley in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday, Jack shared his insights on this year’s NCAA Tournament with Grammer in a hospitality room at the Pit. (During the game, Jack was underneath the basket and on the court performing his usual duties as a Lobos ball boy).
Would Jack pick Iona to get to the Sweet Sixteen? Would he favor Mountain West teams in the first round? Would mascots play a role in his selections? Grammer got the answer to these questions and more. Here is video of Grammer helping Jack fill out his bracket.
Though the First Four games of the NCAA Tournament were played Tuesday and Wednesday, the tournament begins in earnest on Thursday morning and lasts for three weekends. Fill out your bracket soon and see how it compares to Jack’s bracket and Geoff’s bracket.