Dian Watz can’t think of a better time than March to be a college basketball fan.
“It’s the most exciting time of the year in sports,” she said. “It’s better than football, the World Series. It’s a bunch of kids who really want to win. It’s all for team spirit and pride.
“You have so many opinions from people and everybody is rooting for their own team.”
For the next three weeks, the NCAA Tournament will take center stage locally and nationally with 68 teams vying for a spot in the Final Four and chance to compete for a national championship. Kentucky is the defending national champion after winning the school’s eighth title last season, but the Wildcats are one of several teams that appear to be on the bubble. The team’s postseason destination won’t be unveiled until Sunday when the field for the prestigious event is announced on CBS.
A¿native of Kansas, Watz and her husband, who works as a chief deputy for the U.S. Marshal Service in Lexington, relocated to Winchester 10 years ago.¿Watz became interested in NCAA bracket pools about 15 years ago. Watz placed the blame on her son Michael for her addiction to “March Madness.”
“I was a single parent (at the time) and he was really into sports,” she said. “I had to learn as much about sports as fast as I could to be an encouragement to him. Whenever we had a chance, we would watch games — football, college football and mostly college basketball games. I have been lucky. I’m not as familiar with the Big East, SEC and teams that play here, so I can be a little bit more objective by looking at records and (other pertinent items).”
In the past, Watz has fared well when it comes to predicting the outcome of the prestigious tournament and won the Winchester Sun bracket contest two years ago. Watz also participates in bracket pools on CBS Sportsline, ESPN and Yahoo and takes part in “four or five” contests each spring. She has placed as high as seventh in the national contests.
Since moving to Kentucky, Watz considers herself “somewhat” of a Kentucky fan but remains loyal to her native Kansas. She wasn’t happy with the Jayhawks’ loss to Kentucky in last year’s national championship game.
“Kansas was playing so good (at the time), but I knew down deep that Kentucky was going to win,” she said. “They were unstoppable. If it wasn’t for three that was shot in the last three seconds, it could have gone into overtime. That’s what I was really hoping for. I will be a Kentucky fan in (some of their) games, but can I say I want them to win it all? Not this year.”
When it comes to picking a Final Four field, Watz relies on a team’s free-throw shooting and rebounding and narrows down which teams are successful at the charity stripe and on the boards.
“I do it just by guessing who I think is going to win,” she said. “I look at records, of course, but when it comes right down to it, I look at (which team is the best) at rebounds and free-throw shooting. Rebounds are important, but when it comes down to the end of it that’s where games are won. When I’ve got a choice to where I am not sure, that’s where I will go.”
Watz added that “you have to look at seeding,” and always sticks with Kansas. She picked the Jayhawks to win the national title in 2008.
“I pick them every time they’re in there,” she said. “They’re in there quite a bit. But they’re good (for winning a title) about every 20 years.”
Watz will have Kansas penciled in as one of the teams to beat in this year’s tournament, but she also likes Gonzaga, Louisville, Michigan, Indiana and Duke.
“That fourth team will be a toss-up,” she said.
Based on her track record, Watz won’t have a problem predicting the last of the four teams she thinks will be competing in the national semifinals.