Maybe a Lefty Has It Right

Times Staff Writer

In a 41-season career that ended with his retirement Jan. 3, Charles "Lefty" Driesell won 786 games, notched 22 seasons of 20 victories or more and coached four schools to the NCAA tournament -- Davidson, Maryland, James Madison and Georgia State.

Other than that, when it comes to handicapping the 65-school NCAA tournament, really, what does he have on you or me?

Big-shot former college coach?


Basketball Hall of Fame finalist for 2003?


Advanced degree in Bracketology?


Driesell, 71, pushed aside his yellowtail and seasoned vegetables Monday at a downtown restaurant, set his bracket sheet on the table and confessed.

"I've never filled one of these out before," he said.


"The only thing I ever cared about was my bracket," he said. "I wasn't worried about the other three."

Before hopping back in his limousine to resume a whirlwind publicity tour on behalf of DirecTV, Driesell agreed to take his best shot at picking the field against an acclaimed metropolitan newspaper sports reporter.

When that reporter had to pull out of the interview at the last minute, Driesell agreed to pick the field against me.


First round: Lefty goes with all but one of the higher seeds in picking Kentucky, Utah, Wisconsin, Dayton, Missouri, Marquette and Pittsburgh. His lone upset is No. 10 Alabama over No. 7 Indiana. Driesell says Alabama has talent and something to prove after slumping lately.

I go with Kentucky and Oregon then three straight underdogs -- Weber State, Tulsa and Southern Illinois -- before closing with favorites Marquette, Indiana and Pitt.

Round 2: Lefty picks Kentucky, Wisconsin, Missouri and Pitt.

I feel lucky and roll the dice with Kentucky, Weber State, Southern Illinois and Pitt.

Regional semifinals: Lefty picks Kentucky over Wisconsin and Pitt over Missouri.

I jump off the underdogs and also advance No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Pitt.

Regional final: Lefty leaves Kentucky crying in Minneapolis and picks Pitt.

His logic is perfectly understandable.

"I just don't want to go along with Dick Vitale," he said of the ESPN analyst who has picked Kentucky to win the title.

Me? I worship at the Vitale altar and take Kentucky


First round: Lefty goes with six favorites: Arizona, Notre Dame, Illinois, Duke, Memphis and Kansas but picks No .9 Gonzaga in a slight upset over No .8 Cincinnati and goes with No. 11 Central Michigan over No. 6 Creighton.

I pick favorites Arizona, Illinois, Creighton, Duke and Kansas and go with underdogs Gonzaga, Wisconsin Milwaukee and Arizona State

Round 2: Lefty picks the top four seeded teams to advance: Arizona, Kansas, Duke and Illinois.

I concur.

Regional semis: Lefty comes out of left field with two upsets: Illinois over Arizona and Duke over Kansas.

The Duke pick was easy. "I played at Duke," he says.

But Illinois over Arizona?

"I just like the way Illinois plays," he says. "Plus, I just didn't want to pick No. 1 seeds."

I go with Arizona and Kansas.

Regional final: Lefty sends Illinois to the Final Four with a win over Duke.

I take Arizona over Kansas.


First round: Lefty takes Texas, Purdue, Connecticut, Stanford, Maryland (what a shock), Xavier, Michigan State and Florida.

I go with Texas, Louisiana State, Connecticut, San Diego in an upset over Stanford, Maryland, Xavier, Michigan State and Florida.

Round 2: Lefty says Texas over Purdue, Stanford in an upset over Connecticut, Maryland over Xavier and Michigan State over Florida.

I advance Texas, Connecticut, Xavier and Florida

Regional semis: Lefty goes with Texas over Stanford (about time he dropped the Cardinal, huh?) and Michigan State over Maryland, the school Driesell coached for 17 seasons.

"I don't know why I did that," Driesell admits, anticipating the rush of Terrapin e-mailers.

I pick Texas over UConn and Xavier over Florida.

Regional final: Lefty remains infatuated with Tom Izzo's team and picks No. 7 Michigan State over No. 1 Texas.

I'm still hot on Xavier and push the "X" men to the Final Four with a win over Texas.


First round: Lefty sides with seven of the eight higher-seeded schools, his lone upset being No. 10 Auburn over No. 7 St. Joseph's.

"I think they're good," Driesell says of Auburn. "A lot of people say they shouldn't have gotten in, but I think that gives them motivation."

I go with Oklahoma, North Carolina State, Butler (in an upset over Mississippi State), Louisville, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, St. Joseph's and Wake Forest.

Round 2: Lefty advances Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Syracuse and Wake Forest

I pick Oklahoma, Louisville, Syracuse and Wake Forest.

Regional semis: Lefty picks Oklahoma over Mississippi State and Syracuse over Wake Forest.

I go with Oklahoma over Louisville and Syracuse over Wake Forest.

Regional final: Lefty takes Oklahoma over Syracuse. This is the coach in him talking. He loves what Jim Boeheim has done with Syracuse, but says, "I don't think you can win a national championship playing zone. There's too many holes in it."

I remind him Syracuse would have won the title in 1987 had Indiana's Keith Smart not made a jump shot and take the Orangemen to defeat Oklahoma.


National semifinals: Lefty bought stock in Illinois early and is holding it, advancing the Illini to the title game with a win over Pittsburgh, and picking Oklahoma to defeat Michigan State.

I pick Kentucky to beat Arizona because, well, Dick Vitale says so, and Syracuse over Xavier.

National title game: Lefty finally lets go of Illinois and picks Oklahoma to win the championship.

"They're tough, physical, and they've got good outside shooting," Driesell says of the Sooners.

I go with Kentucky over Syracuse because, well, everyone knows you can't win a national title playing zone defense.

Bottom line?

Driesell says your guesses are as good as his or mine.

"Six straight wins, that's hard to do," he says of the victories required to win the national championship. "I don't care who you are, there's a lot of luck involved. The best teams do not always win, but that's what makes it so interesting. Every game is like the seventh game of the NBA playoffs."

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