ESPN NASCAR analyst and former University of North Carolina basketball star Brad Daugherty is picking his old team to win the 2012 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship.
Before cries of “Tar Heel Homer” echo throughout the land, it should be noted that Daugherty originally picked Syracuse to beat UNC when asked to fill out a tournament bracket for Front Row.
When news broke Tuesday that Syracuse center Fab Melo had been ruled ineligible for the tournament, just hours after Daugherty made his initial picks, he changed his mind.
Daugherty, a first team All-America at UNC and the No. 1 pick in the 1986 NBA Draft (Cleveland), still believes Syracuse will make it to the Final Four in New Orleans, along with Kentucky, Michigan State and UNC. But he believes the absence of Melo will open the door for a Tar Heels’ semifinal win.
“He makes such a huge difference in that matchup zone they play,” said Daugherty. “It was going to be a big problem for Carolina with him in the game.”
Daugherty’s lifelong passion for NASCAR racing led to his current ESPN role, but he continues to follow college basketball closely.
“When I can, I watch five or six games a week,” he said. “I’m still fervently involved in keeping up with it and watching which teams are emerging.”
Daugherty will have his eye on several opening week games while working his regular schedule on NASCAR Countdown for ESPN’s telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 17 at 1 p.m. ET.
“I’m looking at UNC-Asheville playing Syracuse right out of the box,” he said. “There’s a lot of games like that early on that will be fun to watch.
“I watched Murray State quite a bit this year and I think they’re an interesting team,” he said. “I don’t know if they have the overall depth and size to play with the big boys at the end of the day but they’re an awfully good transition basketball team. St. Louis was pretty good this year as well, and then there’s Wichita State. You haven’t heard that name since probably the Xavier McDaniel days. They really have a good ball club.”
In the end, Daugherty expects Kentucky and UNC to meet in the championship game.
“It’s really going to be interesting to watch how it unfolds.”