Who the Astros are picking for March Madness

March 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The trash-talk among baseball players about their NCAA men’s basketball tournament picks is a rite of passage in Spring Training.

Few things break up the monotony of a six-week camp like March Madness. Some players are true to their schools, others root for teams near their hometowns, and some just pull for the frontrunner.

The Astros have several players who plan on keeping a close eye on the 2023 tournament bracket over the next few weeks because their alma maters are in the field. That list includes a player who attended a school that garnered a No. 1 seed (Houston) and another whose school is a No. 16 seed (Southeast Missouri State).

I asked some Astros players about their alma maters’ chances in the NCAA Tournament:

, outfielder, University of Houston (No. 1 seed, Midwest Region): “I think they’ve got it as long as they play the way they’ve been playing, even coming off a tough loss [Sunday in the American Athletic Conference title game]. I’m looking forward to the next game against Northern Kentucky. We’re going to start there and get that big W and just ride that wave.”

, outfielder, Southeast Missouri State (No. 16 seed, South Region): “Obviously, going in as a mid-major, it’s always going to be a battle, but I think they definitely showed some good stuff this season and definitely have a good chance of getting there and doing something about it. It should be fun to watch. They’re definitely in my bracket.”

, catcher, USC (No. 10 seed, East Region): “I like us early. We got Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis, who have a lot of experience in the tournament. I think we’ve got a Sweet 16 appearance coming. I think we win the first round, win the Round of 32 and then we’re in the Sweet 16 and we’ll see what happens from there. But I’m going to be rooting for them.”

, relief pitcher, Arkansas (No. 8 seed, West Region): “I want them to win. It’s been a little up and down towards the end of the season, but they’ve got a lot of talent and I think they can make a deep run. We’ll see.”

, utility infielder/outfielder, San Diego State (No. 5 seed, South Region): “I always like to be optimistic. I think they have a good team this year. They’re playing well and won the Mountain West Conference. They had a pretty good season overall and showed some flashes of greatness, I think, and some games they wish they could have had back. I’ve always got to root for them, I know. I've got them into the Final Four. I think they’re going to upset [No. 1 seed] Alabama.”

At Spring Training in 1991, no Astros player knew more about college basketball than outfielder Kenny Lofton. Lofton, who made his big league debut with the Astros later that year, backed up Steve Kerr on the 1988 University of Arizona team that made the Final Four and was a starter on the 1989 team that advanced to the Sweet 16.