SD politicians’ March Madness picks

Here’s a confession: college sports have never been my thing. I went to a small, D-III school, as did everyone in my immediate family and much of my extended family. So I’ve got no real loyalties to any university athletics. Generally I prefer to watch pro sports.

So I won’t be filling out a bracket this year. I wouldn’t have much more to go on other than seedings and mascots, and I don’t want to be that guy.

But the people I interview and write about on a daily basis have no such weaknesses. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Sen. Tim Johnson, Rep. Kristi Noem and Sen. John Thune have all filled out brackets for the men’s basketball tournament, and all agreed to release them so I — and, more importantly, you, the reader — could take a look at them.

Spoiler: They all think the SDSU men are going to do well. Some even think the Jackrabbits are going to do REALLY well.

Not only did all four top leaders pick the Jackrabbits to upset better-seeded Michigan in the Round of 64, but all of them also picked SDSU to win in the Round of 32 over Virginia Commonwealth University.

The four combined to pick three different national champions. No one team was picked by all of them to reach the Final Four.

Below are their brackets — plus a few more bonus brackets.

UPDATE: Drue Aman, an Argus Leader Sports copy editor, was kind enough to send over his analysis of the brackets.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard


Daugaard stuck with the home state team for a few rounds, but even South Dakota’s governor doesn’t think SDSU can beat the number one-seeded Kansas team — Daugaard’s pick to win it all, over Duke.

AMAN: A couple upsets (namely No. 4 St. Louis over No. 1 Louisville, No. 6 Butler over No. 2 Miami) coincide with the theme of parity this college basketball season. Not too outlandish of a bracket, however, as three No. 1 seeds and No. 2 Duke comprise the Final Four. South Dakota State also wins two games in this bracket. Are the mathematical odds due for a No. 13 to reach the Sweet Sixteen? Maybe. It’s happened four times since 1985.

Sen. Tim Johnson


South Dakota’s senior senator, on the other hand, has no problems seeing the boys from Brookings toppling Kansas — or Indiana, or mighty top-seeded Louisville. Johnson’s bracket has SDSU winning it all.

AMAN: This bracket says a couple things: 1) The folks charged with assigning seeds know exactly what they’re doing (Aside from Michigan State, South Dakota State and Minnesota, no upset picks in the bracket); 2) We’ve seen but a small sample of just how good SDSU is. Maybe so, but the Jacks are obvious long-shots. About 300:1 to win their region of the bracket, according to Las Vegas.

Rep. Kristi Noem


If you get a sense of déja vu looking at Noem’s bracket, you’re not alone. Like Daugaard, she has Kansas as the eventual champions, beating SDSU in the regional semifinals. Unlike Daugaard, Noem thinks Louisville will be the runner-up. (Noem, it’s worth noting, is the only SDSU alum of the bunch — Daugaard, Johnson and Thune all went to USD.)

AMAN: New Mexico’s selection as a Final Four team makes sense when considering how rare all four No. 1 seeds play that deep into the tournament (only time: 2009). Four 11 and 12 seeds (Bucknell, Minnesota, Oregon and Belmont) reach the Sweet 16 in this bracket which, though unlikely, more than one traditionally make it that far. South Dakota State beating Michigan and Virginia Commonwealth before falling to Kansas would do untold things for the Jackrabbits’ program, if what Noem predicts comes true.

Sen. John Thune


Hoops-mad Thune went with Noem and Daugaard in seeing the Jackrabbits falling to Kansas. But KU won’t go too much further if Thune’s bracket proves right — they’ll beat Georgetown but then lose to Miami, who will in turn fall to ultimate champion Louisville.

AMAN: Two No.1’s and two No.2’s for a Final Four should augur well for accuracy (it appears Thune began writing Duke to beat Louisville in the Midwest regional final before changing his pick, which in the long history of my bracket-filling days, I can relate to a miserably great deal). Overall, a safe bracket with an agreeable amount of upset picks and the tournament’s top seed (Louisville) winning it all. I believe I saw Thune verbally place SDSU in the Final Four, also?

Not enough for you? Here’s a few other brackets from the people who’ve responded to my requests so far:

First Lady Linda Daugaard


While her husband tempered his Jackrabbit fandom by picking Kansas, First Lady Linda Daugaard sees SDSU going all the way — over Creighton.

State Senate Minority Leader Jason Frerichs


Surprisingly, proud SDSU alum Frerichs has the Jackrabbits exiting earlier in the tournament than any of the statewide leaders. Does that say more about knowledge of basketball or knowledge politics? Frerichs sees SDSU beating Michigan but losing to VCU. Louisville wins it all, over Georgetown.

South Dakota Democratic Party chairman Ben Nesselhuf


Nesselhuf also sees SDSU losing in the Round of 32 to VCU. (I’d say it was something in the Democratic water, but Tim Johnson had the Jackrabbits going all the way.) He’s another Louisville pick, over Kansas.

Argus Leader managing editor Patrick Lalley


Can you tell which one of these amateur bracketologists isn’t a politician? Maybe the man who picks a quick exit for the Jackrabbits in their first game. My boss Patrick Lalley sees Michigan beating SDSU and VCU, only to lose to Kansas. He also tabs Louisville for champs, over Indiana.

I’ve asked a few more South Dakota politicians for their brackets; if they come in, I’ll add them to the list.