Wildcat Francona embraces March Madness

Wildcat Francona embraces March Madness

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The road to the Final Four was once again a popular topic in the Indians' clubhouse.

Welcome to Selection Sunday, the day NCAA picks the teams for the championship basketball tournament. It's the official start of March Madness, and it's when the friendly battle for bragging rights begins across clubhouses in the Cactus League.

"There's nothing better than going to a Spring Training game, going home and getting a pizza, lying in bed and watching seven games," manager Terry Francona said.

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Francona's ties to University of Arizona are well known; in 1980 he led the Wildcats to a national baseball title and was named College Player of the Year. He has seats on the floor in Tucson, follows the team closely when he's away, attends practices and arrives at games early so he can watch them shoot when he can.

"We have a lot of fun with that tournament," Francona said. "You are always looking for things to do during spring to create some personality with 65 guys and some that don't know each other, and that's one way. It's fun, and the guys enjoy it. I think it's good."

Count starter Trevor Bauer, who attended UCLA, as one of the biggest Duke basketball fans in baseball. Bauer hangs a bright blue wig and a Blue Devils T-shirt in his locker on days when his beloved Dukies play.

What happens if Francona's Wildcats face Bauer's Blue Devils?

"Well, if you see Bauer pitching in A-ball ..." Francona joked.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.