WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The last coach to lead a New York City team to a victory in the NCAA tournament was Bobby Gonzalez, who took Manhattan on a wild run to the Sweet 16 in 2004. Every single school from New York City and the surrounding suburbs that has gotten to the tournament since then has lost, including St. John’s last night.
Currently on leave from coaching in the Chinese Basketball Association, Gonzalez sat down with Heavy.com to preview March Madness and to give everyone a look at his bracket.
“Early on, this is the Year of the Cinderella. But by the time we get to the Sweet Sixteen, go with the chalk,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzo has North Carolina defeating Duke in the final, believing that the experience of the Tar Heels’ starters will be the difference maker the night of April 8 in Minneapolis.
But most of the fun for folks over the next four days will be seeing how they do in their office pools and online bracket contests, and Gonzo has a few upset specials in the first round:
In the East region, he likes No. 14 Yale over No. 3 LSU because the Tigers are without their head coach and because Miye Oni, who Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski expects to be a first-round NBA draft pick, will have a game that will move him from the high 20s to the low 20s in Mock NBA Drafts.
In the West Region, Gonzo is not going with any longshots, but in the South region he loves two teams: No. 12 Oregon against No. 5 Wisconsin, and No. 13 UC-Irvine against No. 4 Kansas State.
“Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the country and was a bid-stealer by winning the Pac-10 conference tournament, and I like UC-Irvine for two reasons: They have Doc’ Rivers’ kid (Spencer), and an incredible coach in Russell Turner — plus they are going against a Kansas State team whose best player, Dean Wade, in injured and is doubtful to play.”
In the Midwest Region there are two upset specials: No. 12 New Mexico State over No. 5 Auburn, and No. 13 Northeastern over Kansas.
“New Mexico State has won 20 straight and is an incredibly dominant rebounding team, and Northeasters has a Serbian kid (Vasa Pusica) that I really like — plus they are going against a Kansas team have too many good players hurt or suspended. They are vulnerable,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also raved about Wofford guard Fletcher McGee, who is second on the NCAA career 3-pointers made list after growing up in Orlando as a fan of J.J. Redick and patterning his game after the Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard.
Of all Gonzo’s upset picks, the teams he expects to make it to the final 16 are New Nexico State and Oregon.
But after that, he is expecting the Final Four to come down to the four No. 1 seeds: Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga and North Carolina. It would be the first time since 2008 that all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four.
Until then, copy his bracket and get it in before it is too late. Gonzo usually hits about 90 percent of his picks in the NCAA tournament. Sometimes more.