One of the area’s youngest coaches has an old soul when it comes to college hoops.
Manteca High’s Brett Lewis doesn’t get much time during the season to watch the college game, but he keeps close tabs on the traditional powers; programs with established systems and Hall of Fame-caliber coaches.
“There are a few teams I like to watch – Michigan State, Duke, Michigan and Wisconsin,” Lewis said, tucking the morning crossword into his back pocket while slow-sipping his coffee. “Teams that have old-school coaches; coaches that are proven winners and have been there a long time and have good programs with systems that work.”
There’s that word again – systems.
It’s only fitting then that Lewis has a “system” when it comes to picking his NCAA Tournament bracket.
He has a soft spot for tradition, wisdom, Checkers in the park, recliners with worn-down arms, gardening, classic cars kept under a cover and Mom’s meatloaf. He favors college basketball’s old fogeys, refusing to fully commit to the wildly athletic and gifted five-star recruits who have turned top-tier programs into pit stops.
Places like Kentucky.
“I typically don’t watch a lot of Kentucky and schools that are one-and-dones,” he said. “My brackets favor the guys that have been there and done that.”
So far, it’s working.
Lewis leads The Bulletin’s Coaches Bracket Challenge with 46 points. Three of his Final 4 teams are still in the hunt with his national champion – Arizona – setting a blistering course for Indianapolis, site of the Final 4 and title game.
He was one of only four Challengers to advance Tom Izzo and No. 7 Michigan State to the Sweet 16. Izzo has spent the last 20 years on the Spartans’ bench, winning a national championship in 1999-2000.
The rest of his AARP club looks like this: North Carolina’s Roy Williams (12 seasons); Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan (14 seasons); Gonzaga’s Mark Few (15 seasons); Notre Dame’s Mike Brey (15 seasons); and the president, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (35 seasons).
That doesn’t mean Lewis can’t be swayed by a coach or a program more his age.
His national champion is a traditional West Coast power, but the head coach (Sean Miller, six seasons at Arizona) is just a baby compared to the others. The Bear Down Wildcats also feature freshman Stanley Johnson, a four-time CIF state champion at Mater Dei.
“I knew they had athleticism, a solid big guy, and couple of other guys that are younger and get it done,” Lewis said, diving deep into the details of the Arizona scouting report. “I like their road there. I like Wisconsin a lot, but I think Arizona’s athleticism will get them there.”
The only thing Lewis loves for more than the tried-and-true pick is a that’s-my-dude pick.
Lewis went with the young, brash Arizona Wildcats with their potential one-and-done freshman over Wisconsin and Duke because of the pull of a good friend: Jeff Lund, a former East Union basketball coach and Bulletin outdoors columnist.
Lund graduated from Arizona.
“It was a little bit of a friend pick, too,” Lewis admitted. “I’m rooting for them because of Lund. He’s a huge Arizona guy.”
NATE STILL GREAT: Lathrop High boys basketball coach Nate McGrath took it on the chin in the first two rounds and is seventh in the Bulletin’s Coaches Bracket Challenge with 43 points, but he’s the only one with his Final 4 still intact.
Where a majority of the Challengers hung their hopes on Villanova and Virginia to come out of the East, McGrath found it hard to bet against Izzo.
McGrath likes Kentucky, Arizona, Duke and Michigan State to punch their tickets to Indianapolis, with Kentucky edging Duke in the final.