VIP Pickers gear up for round one

Staff report

LAURINBURG — The Exchange’s VIP Pickers have filled out their brackets and are ready to watch the madness unfold. For the first round of the tournament, which starts Thursday, we wanted to find out who each of the pickers tabbed to be the 2017 NCAA Champion — the results were surprising.

We also wanted to find out if they had any advice for people when filling out their brackets. Our VIP Pickers will return next Wednesday before the Sweet 16 round, which gets underway on March 23, to see how their brackets are holding up and if they needed to make any changes.

Amber Hatten, sports editor at The Laurinburg Exchange

Pick to win it all: Villanova University

“The Wildcats are the defending NCAA Champions — that’s not a title you give up willingly.”

Advice for filling out a bracket: There’s always that one bracket buster.

“It happens every year, there is always that one upset that completely ruins half the brackets in the country,” Hatten said. “Don’t be afraid to pick a No. 14 seed over a No. 3 seed — FGCU over FSU — because at some point in the tournament the underdog is going to prevail.”

Dean Nichols, owner of Nic’s Pic Kwik

Pick to win it all: University of North Carolina

“Carolina made it to the National Championship game last year, hit the three with. I just think they have a chance to get back there again.”

Advice for filling out a bracket: Look at the team’s statistics, not just ranking.

“When filling out brackets look at the head-to-head match ups, in terms of statistics,” Nichols said, “that way you can see which team has a higher shooting percentage and things like that to help you make a more informed pick.”

Matthew Block, mayor of Laurinburg

Pick to win it all: Duke University

Advice for filling out a bracket: Support the state rivalry.

“Only advice I can give people is don’t pick UNC,” Block said.

Adam Wilhelm, owner of AJW Landscaping

Pick to win it all: University of North Carolina

“They have a good blend of talent and they had a good run during the regular season to win their conference by two games,” he said.

Advice for filling out a bracket: Keep an eye on the cities the early games are played in.

“University of South Carolina is a No. 7 seed, but they are playing the opening rounds in Greenville,” Wilhelm said. “So even though they might be an underdog, they will have the hometown advantage and would cause some upsets.”

Tracie Leviner, G&M Outlet

Pick to win it all: University of Kentucky

“I’m a Tarheel fan and I think they are the best team in the country, but they aren’t going to win.”

Advice for filling out a bracket: Better to be lucky than good.

“Don’t go with your heart, you’ll lose your butt,” said Leviner.

Ron Riggins, owner of Champ’s Steakhouse

Pick to win it all: University of North Carolina

“I have to go with UNC, since I grew up here,” Riggins said. “I would have picked my Alma mater, UNLV, but they aren’t in it this year.”

Advice for filling out a bracket: Factor in a teams defensive abilities

“A lot of the time, teams with good defenses win the big games in the tournament.”

Randy McCall, Jr., broker at Associated Realty

Pick to win it all: Villanova University

“I am rooting against UNC,” McCall said. “I would really like to see Villanova go back to back.”

Advice for filling out a bracket: Choose between heads or tails.

“My advice would be to just flip a coin. It’s college basketball, anything could happen.”

Cerrick Stevens, employee at Stanton’s BBQ & Seafood

Pick to win it all: Duke University

Advice for filling out a bracket: Don’t be afraid to root for the underdog.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to pick a lower seeded team because on any given day a strong team can come together and out perform a high ranked team,” said Stevens.

Readers who are interested in filling out a bracket as part of this year’s contest through the Exchange just need to visit the paper’s website and click on the button on the right-hand side of the page that says “College Basketball Bracket.”

The Exchange has added an interesting twist to this year’s bracket selections. Participants will have a chance to re-pick — twice. Readers will make the initial 68 selections then when the tournament reaches the Sweet 16, participants will be able to go back to their — busted — brackets and re-pick. Participants will receive an e-mail reminding them when it’s time to re-pick.

When the Final Four teams are announced participants will get to go back and re-pick a third time. People should also note that they don’t have to fill out an initial bracket to make Sweet 16 or Final Four picks.

Staff report

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