While many Royals fans are filling out their NCAA men’s basketball tournament brackets and predicting a Final Four appearance for No. 1-seeded Kansas, the Royals are focused on the March madness of spring training.
Leak or no leak, brackets haven’t quite filled the Royals clubhouse, but the early favorite in Surprise seems to match the one at home: the Jayhawks.
Infielder Dusty Coleman said Kansas is going to be tough to stop.
“The Jayhawks are doing pretty good,” Coleman said. “No. 1 in the country, No. 1 seed. … I predict them to go pretty far.”
“Pretty good” might be an understatement for the Jayhawks this season, but Coleman said he sees a tough matchup for Kansas coming from the opposite side of the bracket in North Carolina should the Jayhawks reach the final.
Above all, the former Wichita State athlete is remaining loyal to his Shockers.
“This year, they’ve got a play-in game,” Coleman said. “Hopefully they can muster up another nice little run and go deep in the tournament.”
Coleman said that players know they need to focus on baseball more than college basketball during spring training, but acknowledged that he can take the time to appreciate March Madness.
“Every team I’ve been on, we get the brackets going around and get a big pool going,” Coleman said.
Other players with strong college allegiances are a little less invested this year.
Cody Decker played his college baseball at UCLA — in fact, he said his loss to Christian Colon’s Cal State Fullerton team in the 2008 Regional Finals still stings. With the Bruins out of the basketball tournament picture, Decker has other interests to occupy his time.
“Is UCLA in the tournament? They aren’t,” Decker said. “Then I’m not going to lie to you — who cares?”
While Decker and Coleman differ on their level of enthusiasm for college basketball this year, both agree that they’d like to see more interest in the College World Series.
“You don’t see as many (college) baseball games as you’d like to see, at least on TV,” Coleman said. “Hopefully one day they’ll get there. But the March Madness definitely has a certain excitement about it. Hopefully baseball will get to that point to where everyone is throwing out brackets for baseball.”
For now, Decker is instead focused on a different bracket in the Royals clubhouse: the team’s March Madness-themed billiards bracket. Much like his play on the field, Decker said his pool game is defined by the word “hustle.”
“I’ve been known as a young Paul Newman more than once,” Decker deadpanned. “I’ve been known to occasionally dabble in some hustling.”
Still, even if he won’t watch the actual NCAA Tournament, Decker has caught some Final Four spirit this March. While UCLA is the only current college basketball team the versatile Decker supports, he’s happy to draw inspiration from some of the great programs in history.
“I’ll go home and I’ll watch ‘Glory Road’ on repeat for three days,” Decker said. “Man, Texas Western, what a school!”
Jayson Chesler is a senior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.