Orioles' eyes on alma maters for March Madness

Wilson, Brach remain die-hard fans of respective contending schools

March 13th, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On Sunday, Tyler Wilson was harboring championship dreams for his college basketball team of choice, while fellow Orioles pitcher Brad Brach was hoping his favorite squad would simply get to take part in March Madness.

This wasn't just any Sunday, of course. It was Selection Sunday, when the bracket is set for the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and just like anyone else, Orioles players are fans. That's especially the case this year for Wilson and Brach, who played their college ball at Virginia and Monmouth, respectively.

While the latter school was on the bubble, Virginia received one of the tournament's four No. 1 seeds. The Cavaliers are 26-7 this season and lost a hard-fought ACC tournament championship game to North Carolina on Saturday night.

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"I really enjoyed the game," said Wilson, who hasn't missed one this season. "Obviously I wish UVA had pulled it out. But as a basketball fan it was awesome. That's what March is all about, so I'm really looking forward to the tournament."

Wilson, a 26-year-old right-hander who debuted in the Majors last year, grew up in Virginia, was a 10th-round pick out of UVA in the 2011 Draft and married a former Cavaliers women's basketball player, Chelsea Wilson (formerly Shine). He still lives in Charlottesville, Va., in the offseason and has season tickets.

"I think they'll put it together to make a deep run this year," Wilson said. "They have really good depth. Their defense is coming together really well. They're playing together really well as a unit, and obviously they have a national player of the year candidate in [Malcolm] Brogdon. I think they've got everything they need to make a really deep run, and I hope this is the year they break through to the Final Four."

Meanwhile, Brach had been impulsively refreshing ESPN.com's "Bracketology" page since Monday, when Monmouth (27-7) suffered an upset loss to Iona in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. That put the Hawks in danger of missing out on March Madness, which occurred.

A 2008 Draft pick by the Padres out of the New Jersey school, Brach believes Monmouth would have seized the opportunity, had it been granted.

"Every time they've played a team rated higher than them, they seem to rise to the challenge," he said.