By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — March Madness has arrived, which means it’s time to take account of some local professional athletes and their NCAA Tournament brackets.’s Jamal Collier caught up with Nationals pitchers Shawn Kelley and Joe Ross, both of whom went with their hearts in picking winners, which is probably as effective as basing your bracket off of thorough analysis.

Kelley, a Louisville, Kentucky native, picks his hometown school in just about every sporting contest that comes along. Last year, he accurately predicted Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson would win the Heisman Trophy, so his hometown love isn’t terribly misguided. That’s not to say Kelley lacks strategy for the rest of his bracket.

“[I’m a] big Louisville Cardinals fan, so I just pick them to win it all every year regardless and try to get all my other picks right,” Kelley told Collier. “I’m not a huge upset guy. I pay attention to the 12-5s because obviously there’s usually two of those — they’re like 50-50 over the past 10 years. The problem is, if you don’t pick the right two and then you miss four, is it safer to pick all the 12s or pick all the 5s? So I try to think about it statistically.”

“I kind of go chalk a little bit, I make safe picks,” he said. “I stick to the good teams. I watch a lot of games so I know which teams are better. … I usually have a pretty boring Final Four.”

Ross had committed to pitch for UCLA out of high school, but instead chose to sign with the Padres after being selected in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

“Because I almost went there,” he said, “I want UCLA to be good and win.”

“I mostly go off what I’ve seen and what I catch on [TV] randomly,” he said of his bracket strategy. “I’m not really too much into upsets because I’m looking at the bracket, and I’m like, ‘Even if I haven’t seen you, am I really going to think a 15 is going to beat a 2?’ Probably not. If I’m feeling risky and go out on a whim, I might throw one in there, throw a couple in there. But I’m not taking it too seriously.”

Asked for his Cinderella pick: “This isn’t a real Cinderella pick because I’m pretty sure they’re ranked third in the bracket but I’m just going to say, ‘Go Bruins.’ If they pull it out, I called it first. So quote me on that if they win.”

There you have it.

In theory, UCLA and Louisville could meet in the Final Four. Now wouldn’t that just make for a nice rivalry night down in Florida.

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.


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