DALLAS – An outsider looking in, Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio nonetheless filled out his NCAA tournament bracket during the team’s Tuesday flight to Dallas, if only to spite some of his prideful teammates.
Rubio has no horse in this game that begins Thursday because he turned professional when he was barely a teenager in Spain and, like teammates Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved, never attended an American university.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t play the predicting game.
“I like the games, I like the players when they are kind of fancy, too,” Rubio said. “I always go against the guy who has his team [in the tournament]. They have their own school and their own team and I just go against them. When UCLA plays, I go with the other team so I can talk bad with Kevin Love and all those guys who are from UCLA.”
In this case, Rubio is pulling for 13th-seeded Tulsa in Friday’s game against fourth-seeded UCLA, the alma mater for Wolves teammates Love, Shabazz Muhammad and Luc Mbah a Moute.
Rubio is hoping for better results this year.
“Last year was kind of terrible,” he said. “I didn’t put Louisville in the Final Four, so it messed me up.”
Rubio never considered attending a U.S. university.
“I never thought about coming to college because I turned pro when I was 15,” Rubio said. “I was enjoying and I was still in high school, so I couldn’t make it.”
By being the contrarian, Rubio stands to prosper against Love with his UCLA team, Corey Brewer with his Florida team, Chase Budinger with his Arizona team, Gorgui Dieng with his Louisville team, Ronny Turiaf with his Gonzaga team, Dante Cunningham with his Villanova team and A.J. Price and his Connecticut team.
“So if Ricky wins, he gets all the money,” Love said.
For the record, Rubio picked Florida to win it all in his NCAA pool. “I hear they’re good,” he said.
There goes Gorgui again …
Dieng, the Wolves rookie center, made his second career start Wednesday, once again for the injured Pekovic. He avoided early foul trouble for the second consecutive game as well.
Pekovic traveled with the team on this quick two-game trip to Dallas and Houston but is not expected to play either night because his right ankle/foot remains too sore to play. He has not tried running on that foot since he left Friday’s game at Charlotte in the third quarter.