SCOTTSDALE – Pitcher Patrick Corbin pulled a chair up in front of a television in the Diamondbacks clubhouse at Salt River Fields and fellow pitcher Robbie Ray looked at the screen and joined him.
Moments later a cluster of about seven players had gathered, feet propped up and eyes glued to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Optional conditioning and cage work would begin in 30 minutes, but at the moment the Diamondbacks focused all of their attention on the fact that Princeton was closing the gap against Notre Dame and what that would mean for their March Madness brackets.
Since spring training falls during the tournament rounds, filling out a tournament bracket has become a favorite clubhouse pastime.
“Ever since I can remember, I’d fill one out,” Corbin said. “They’re fun just to do and keep track of, get the highlighter and cross them off, however you want. But it’s always a bummer if you have a Final Four team go down, especially early.”
It’s no surprise that Corbin, who played basketball in high school, arranged the team’s tournament challenge this year. He filled out five brackets and favors Villanova to go all the way. Having gone to Cicero-North Syracuse High School, he usually picks the Orange to win it all. However, Syracuse didn’t get a tournament bid this year.
“I think we have over 100 brackets, so a lot of guys are doing it,” he said. “It’s a bummer not having Syracuse in this year but it brings the team together. It’s something to do and people talk crap to each other, so it’s fun.”
The rules are simple — each player is allowed to fill out five brackets and whichever player has the best bracket wins bragging rights.
“We’ll see what happens,” Corbin said, “It will be fun maybe more so to make fun of the people who have the worst brackets.”
It’s not an easy feat, since upsets are the nature of the tournament. Corbin had his eye on Florida Gulf Coast as a sleeper, but the Eagles lost to Florida State 86-80 on Thursday.
Archie Bradley has Wichita State as his Cinderella team.
“They had a really good regular season,” he said. “I think they kind of got shafted when they got seeded in their placement, but that’s my sleeper pick. They’re a good team, rolling with a lot of confidence.”
Picks can be based off of hometown or college allegiances, like Corbin or Matt Koch who chose his alma mater Louisville as the winner.
In Bradley’s case, he’s just a fan of college basketball.
“I like watching the conference tournaments and Duke and (North Carolina) games throughout the season,” said Bradley, who picked Gonzaga as the tournament champ. “March Madness, I’m all over (it).”