Wolverines recall memorable NCAA Tournament bracket picks

Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 9:17pm

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — As media shuffled through the Michigan men’s basketball team’s locker room on Thursday, prior to its Friday matchup with Notre Dame at the Barclays Center, junior guards Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan sat with their eyes locked in on an iPhone screen.

The two were watching Purdue take on University of Arkansas – Little Rock in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The 12th-seeded Trojans upset the fifth-seeded Boilermakers in a double-overtime thriller. The day also featured Yale taking down a favored Baylor team to shake things up in the West region.

Despite being a part of the tournament now, Dakich, Lonergan and their teammates still enjoy watching how the bracket unfolds in March.

Per NCAA rules, players are not allowed to participate in filling out NCAA Tournament brackets, but many of the Wolverines’ players fondly remember testing out their bracketology skills before getting to Michigan.

Sophomore forward Kameron Chatman looked clutch a week ago hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put Michigan past Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament, but he could never prevail when it came to his bracket.

“I always was the guy that tried to be different,” Chatman said. “So I tried to have guys that had upsets. I was always the upset guy, and it never worked.”

That’s not completely true. He never won his bracket, but he did predict No. 3 seed Duke losing to No. 14 seed Mercer in 2014.

“Two years ago, yeah, I called that upset,” Chatman said. “I don’t know why. It was just random, but I called that one. I was surprised about that one.”

Dakich experienced more success than Chatman with his mock brackets when he was younger.

“To be honest, I picked Michigan to win it all that year,” Dakich said of Michigan’s trip to the Final Four in 2013.

He had the Wolverines over Louisville in a reversal of the actual outcome. He also took a chance on No. 3 seeded Florida in 2006 to take the title — its first of back-to-back championships.

“They weren’t really projected to win it,” Dakich said. “I actually picked them to win it. It was crazy, and then obviously the second year there was no doubt they were gonna win.”

Freshman forward Moritz Wagner, who grew up in Berlin, Germany, even used to get in on the March Madness bracket craze. He said it’s not as popular, but people who play basketball there still follow the tournament.

“The basketball scene cares, but nobody else (cares), like it’s not big or anything,” Wagner said. “I would always give my mom (a bracket), and she just randomly would fill it out, and she was so much better even though I know a little bit about basketball.”

Of all of Michigan’s players, though, Lonergan may have been the most serious when it came to filling out his bracket. He said he treated his bracket like a school paper: researching, drafting and revising.

“I’d print off five blank ones, and my first one would be written in pencil and it would be like my first draft,” Lonergan said.  “I’d go through it and be like, ‘Yep, that’s a lock. I’m definitely choosing them.’

“I’d go through it (again and) by like my third or fourth one, that would be the final one. Signed, date it. Hang it up on the fridge. This is what I’m going with.”

But even Lonergan didn’t always foresee how things would shake out. He admitted he didn’t see Michigan making a run like it did in the 2012-13 season. He picked it losing to Kansas in the Sweet 16.

“I didn’t even know I was coming to Michigan (then),” Lonergan said with a smile. “So you can't hold that against me.”