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Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Bracket baseball-style: Creighton wins it all!

By David Schoenfield

From the World Of I Can't Believe You Spent The Time Doing This, what would the NCAA tournament bracket look like if we picked the best major leaguer from each school? Well, something like this (* denotes Hall of Famer) ...



REGION 1
Round of 64
Liberty (Sid Bream) over Louisville (Sean Green)
Missouri (Ian Kinsler) over Colorado State (Tippy Martinez)
Oregon (Joe Gordon*) over Oklahoma State (Robin Ventura)
Saint Louis (Gene Robertson) over New Mexico State (Mark Acre)
Saint Mary's (Harry Hooper*) over Memphis (Dan Uggla)
Michigan State (Robin Roberts*) over Valparaiso (Lloyd McClendon)
Creighton (Bob Gibson*) over Cincinnati (Sandy Koufax*)
Duke (Dick Groat) over Albanay (none)

Round of 32
Missouri (Ian Kinsler) over Liberty (Sid Bream)
Oregon (Joe Gordon) over Saint Louis (Gene Robertson)
Michigan State (Robin Roberts) over Saint Mary's (Harry Hooper)
Creighton (Bob Gibson) over Duke (Dick Groat)

Round of 16
Oregon (Joe Gordon) over Missouri (Ian Kinsler)
Creighton (Bob Gibson) over Michigan State (Robin Roberts)

Regional Final
Creighton (Bob Gibson) over Oregon (Joe Gordon)

REGION 2
Round of 64
Southern (Lou Brock*) over Gonzaga (Jason Bay)
Wichita State (Joe Carter) over Pittsburgh (Doc Medich)
Wisconsin (Addie Joss*) over Mississippi (Don Kessinger)
Boise State (Larry Jackson) over Kansas State (Elden Auker)
Arizona (Kenny Lofton) over Belmont (Jerry Bell)
Harvard (Eddie Grant) over New Mexico (Scott Stickland)
Notre Dame (Ed Reulbach) over Iowa State (Bob Locker)
Ohio State (Frank Howard) over Iona (Dennis Leonard)

Round of 32
Southern (Lou Brock*) over Wichita State (Joe Carter)
Wisconsin (Addie Joss*) over Boise State (Larry Jackson)
Arizona (Kenny Lofton) over Harvard (Eddie Grant)
Ohio State (Frank Howard) over Notre Dame (Ed Reulbach)

Round of 16
Southern (Lou Brock*) over Wisconsin (Addie Joss*)
Arizona (Kenny Lofton) over Ohio State (Frank Howard)

Regional Final
Arizona (Kenny Lofton) over Southern (Lou Brock*)

REGION 3
Round of 64
Kansas (Bob Allison) over Western Kentucky (Duane Kuiper)
North Carolina (B.J. Surhoff) over Villanova (Mickey Vernon)
VCU (Brandon Inge) over Akron (Mike Birkbeck)
Michigan (Barry Larkin*) over South Dakota State (Vean Gregg)
UCLA (Jackie Robinson*) over Minnesota (Dave Winfield*)
Florida (David Eckstein) over Northwestern State (Brian Lawrence)
San Diego State (Tony Gwynn*) over Oklahoma (Lindy McDaniel)
Georgetown (Doc White) over Florida Gulf (Chris Sale)

Round of 32
Kansas (Bob Allison) over North Carolina (B.J. Surhoff)
Michigan (Barry Larkin*) over VCU (Brandon Inge)
UCLA (Jackie Robinson*) over Florida (David Eckstein)
San Diego State (Tony Gwynn*) over Georgetown (Doc White)

Round of 16
Michigan (Barry Larkin*) over Kansas (Bob Allison)
UCLA (Jackie Robinson*) over San Diego State (Tony Gwynn*)

Regional Final
UCLA (Jackie Robinson*) over Michigan (Barry Larkin*)

REGION 4
Round of 64
Indiana (Ted Kluszewski) over LIU-Brooklyn (Sid Gordon)
North Carolina State (Dan Plesac) over Temple (Bobby Higginson)
California (Jeff Kent) over UNLV (Matt Williams)
Syracuse (Dave Giusti) over Montana (none)
Bucknell (Christy Mathewson*) over Butler (Doug Jones)
Davidson (Fred Anderson) over Marquette (Ralph Shinners)
Illinois (Lou Boudreau*) over Colorado (John Stearns)
Miami (Ryan Braun) over Pacific (Chase Headley)

Round of 32
Indiana (Ted Kluszewski) over North Carolina State (Dan Plesac)
California (Jeff Kent) over Syracuse (Dave Giusti)
Bucknell (Christy Mathewson*) over Davidson (Fred Anderson)
Illinois (Lou Boudreau*) over Miami (Ryan Braun)

Round of 16
California (Jeff Kent) over Indiana (Ted Kluszewski)
Bucknell (Christy Mathewson*) over Illinois (Lou Boudreau*)

Regional Final
Bucknell (Christy Mathewson*) over California (Jeff Kent)

NATIONAL SEMIFINALS
Creighton (Bob Gibson) over Arizona (Kenny Lofton)
UCLA (Jackie Robinson) over Bucknell (Christy Mathewson)

CHAMPIONSHIP
Creighton over UCLA

* * * *

Anyone want to place a big bet on Creighton to win it all?

Wait a minute ... you can't leave it there! Explain some of your picks, pal.

OK, quickly here. Yes, Kenny Lofton was better than Hall of Famer Lou Brock (and Lofton was a point guard at Arizona, so it makes sense to give him a little extra credit as tie-breaker). And I'm taking Jackie Robinson over Christy Mathewson in the semifinals. Why? It's Jackie Robinson! He happened to play basketball as well at UCLA. And Bob Gibson was good enough at hoops to play for a time with the Harlem Globetrotters. Pretty cool that three of the final four guys played college basketball. Maybe Mathewson did as well, back when they still used peach baskets. As for Gibson over Robinson ... well, he was known as one of the greatest big-game pitchers of all time, so I have to take him in a one-game showdown. Plus, this thing isn't real anyway. I'm just making it up as I go along.

Hey, Gibson versus Koufax in the first round? Tough one!

Yeah, tough one. I was going to give the edge to Koufax (he was at Cincinnati for one year, which he attended on a basketball scholarship) since he beat Gibson four of the five times they started against each other (including two 1-0 shutouts), but in the end I went with Gibson since his career was longer. And he played for the Globetrotters.

Didn't Cap Anson and Carl Yastrzemski attend Notre Dame? Why didn't you pick one of them?

To my knowledge, neither actually played baseball there. In fact, Anson actually only attended the prep school boarding school at Notre Dame when he was about 14 or 15. And Yaz did receive a basketball scholarship to Notre Dame but left after a short time to pursue a professional baseball career.

You went with Robinson over Dave Winfield?

Difficult, but at his peak Jackie was more valuable. I could have gone with Paul Molitor to represent Minnesota, but gave the edge to Winfield since he was a basketball star as well, helping lead the Gophers to the 1972 Big Ten Title.

Any other big names you considered?

Hall of Famer Larry Doby briefly attended LIU-Brooklyn to play basketball for legendary coach Clair Bee, but I couldn't find any evidence he played baseball there. I chose Barry Larkin over Charlie Gehringer at Michigan. Gehringer said he never lettered in baseball at Michigan, although I'm not sure if he played at all. Anyway, it's choosing between Hall of Famers, so I went with the guy I know played baseball there.

Robinson over Tony Gwynn? You sure on that one?

Another tough one. Gwynn was an outstanding point guard at San Diego State, getting drafted by the Clippers in the 10th round the same day the Padres drafted him in the third round. Love all the basketball tie-wins here! Anyway, Gwynn chose wisely. You can make the argument for Gywnn, but Robinson's peak value was impressive, with seasons of 9.3, 9.3, 8.1, 7.1, 6.7 and 5.0 WAR. In 10 seasons in the majors, he averaged 5.9 WAR per season. Gwynn's best seasons were 8.3, 6.4, 6.1 and 5.3. Have to give it Robinson.

More hoops tie-ins!

Dick Groat was a two-time basketball All-American at Duke (he played one season in the NBA). ... Frank Howard was two-time All-Big Ten at Ohio State. ... Lou Boudreau was captain of the basketball team at Illinois. ... Robin Roberts attended Michigan State to play basketball and lettered three seasons and only tried out for baseball after his second year of hoops. Legend has it the coach put him at pitcher only because that's where the team needed help. I'm guessing the 95-mph fastball may have helped with that decision.