Talking Sports: Local basketball minds weigh in on March Madness

Published 7:15 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thursday marks the beginning of March Madness. Some folks are scrambling to fill out their brackets before the first tipoff cuts off online entries. Others are simply overflowing with excitement for what many consider to be the best part of the calendar year.

The NCAA Tournament is celebrated across the nation, and even around the world. North Carolina is one of America’s hotbeds for college basketball, so the anticipation is usually a bit higher around here.

With national powerhouses about two hours away and a native in Edrice “Bam” Adebayo contending for a national championship, here’s what Beaufort County’s basketball experts had to say about all the madness.


Northside alumnus and assistant boys’ coach Jabari Ashe:

How he expects the brackets to play out:

“My favorite is still Kentucky. They’re in a tough part of the bracket with Carolina and UCLA, but I still feel like they’ll get out of it. … I have them in the championship playing Villanova and beating Villanova.”


What he expects from Northside’s “Bam” Adebayo:

“I think ‘Bam’ can come out and play like he’s played in the last five games. He’s averaging, I think, 16 points and 12 rebounds. They’ve been feeding him the ball a whole lot more. He’s been aggressive on the offensive end, and on the defensive end. His foul count has been low in games, so he’s been able to play more aggressively on the defensive end, which leads him to be more aggressive on the offensive end. I feel like he’ll be a key player.”


What other teams he’s watching:

“My family is a Carolina family. Me, personally, I don’t have a bracket with Carolina winning. I only have one bracket. My mom and everybody has brackets with Carolina winning. That’s still a big possibility, but they have to be able to play together as a team.”


Southside boys’ coach Sean White

Why he’s wary to pick some of the top-seeded teams:

“They got a No. 1 seed, but I just don’t know if they’re going to make it all the way. With their schedule, they don’t really play anybody. They’ve got a couple of wins that were top 25, but most of the other ones are not that high profile. Even though Villanova, being the overall No. 1, two of their three losses during the year were to Butler. It’s hard to pick one.”


Which teams have hit their stride:

“Duke’s playing really well. They showed they can win, even coming from behind. They’re playing strong when they need to be. I think Kansas is, too. I think Kansas has a pretty good shot. Arizona is playing pretty good right now. They had a pretty good win against UCLA.”


What he expects from “Bam” Adebayo and Kentucky:

“I think they’ll do well in the tournament. I don’t know if they’ll go all the way. They’ve got many young guys on there. Their losses, they’ve been close, and they’ve got some quality wins like Carolina earlier in the year. They beat Duke, also.”


Southside girls’ coach Milton Ruffin:

Why he loves March Madness:

“I tell you what, this is what basketball is all about for the college kids. All of them are out there on the biggest stage with a chance to showcase their talent. It’s win or go home now.”


What his first impressions were of the brackets:

“I think the east bracket is probably the toughest one. It’s going to be hard for Duke to get out of. I like Carolina in the south, but they’re going to have a hard time getting out of there. They have Kentucky down there at the bottom of the bracket. They’re going to have to beat Kentucky to get out of the Final Four.”


What he thinks about the Tar Heels in the tournament:

“The one thing about the Tar Heels is they’re going to have to stay out of foul trouble. Also, they’ve got to continue to pound the ball to the inside. I thought, when they played Duke, they got away from that. I believe that cost them the game. Pound the ball inside and use the bigs.”


Terra Ceia boys’ coach Roger Klaassen:

How he thinks “Bam” Adebayo will aid Kentucky:

“I did get to see part of their last game where they won the SEC Championships. I thought they used him more than they had been. He was very strong inside. He’s a handful, I can tell you that. It looks like he’s gotten a lot stronger. His footwork around the basket and everything, I was impressed watching him.”


Who he’s pulling for:

“If Duke is on TV, I try and catch them most of the time. I did see quite a few of the games in the conference tournament. It does look like they’re getting their act together. I’m more impressed with them than I had been earlier in the year.

“When you go through and win four games against the caliber of teams they’re playing, that should give you a lot of confidence heading into the tournament.”


What other team’s he’ll be keeping tabs on:

“I grew up watching the college game. I’ve watched UCLA several times this year. I like their style of play. I think Oregon is a tough team. They lost their center (Chris Boucher) to a knee injury. I don’t know how tough they’ll be, but they’ve still got some quality players. I’ve watched several of these teams play.”