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While your March Madness bracket was destroyed, this 7th grader predicted the Final Four

Sasha Anderson, 12, predicted the Final Four teams in this year’s NCAA tournament as part of a competition at her school.
Sasha Anderson, 12, predicted the Final Four teams in this year’s NCAA tournament as part of a competition at her school. Courtesy of Denzelle Lawson

There’s no exact science behind crafting the perfect March Madness bracket, but a Charlotte area middle school student got pretty close. Sasha Anderson, who attends Mountain Island Lake Academy in northwest Charlotte, correctly predicted each Final Four team in this year’s NCAA tournament.

The 7th-grader’s pick crushed millions of other brackets across the nation, in part from a big assist from the University of South Carolina, which was not expected to make it nearly this far. (That was not a random selection, by the way. She picked the team for a very special reason.)

Sasha’s bracket was part of a competition designed by her math teacher, Denzelle Lawson, who uses the tournament each year as an opportunity to engage his students to learn about colleges across the country in a fun way.

Lawson has students fill out a bracket at the start of the tournament. He creates a point system that awards each correct matchup prediction, and posts each student’s bracket in a hallway for everyone to see. At the end of each round, Lawson highlights each bracket to see which students are in the lead. That’s how he discovered Sasha had predicted the Final Four.

“She’s (even) beating the teachers,” he said. “She’s winning overall.”

Sasha, who is not a huge college hoops fan, was excited to see her bracket was mostly still intact up to this point.

“I didn’t know much about college basketball,” she said. “People congratulated me and were kind of surprised about how I guessed.”

Her bracket, like most, wasn’t completely perfect. She had Wisconsin losing to Villanova and East Tennessee State upsetting Florida earlier in the tournament. However, she was able to predict upsets that would go on to be big bracket busters, including South Carolina’s stunning victory over Duke.

She said she continued to root for the Gamecocks to advance because her mom went to school there.

“I was happy because I picked South Carolina for a reason,” she said. “I had faith in that team to be in the Final Four.”

As for the rest of the tournament, Sasha has North Carolina winning the championship over Gonzaga. A Charlotte native, she said she’d like to see her home team win the title.

It was her first time ever filling out a March Madness bracket, but she said it won’t be her last.

UNC has been to the Final Four 20 times, the most in the NCAA. But the other three teams have combined for just four appearances. Here's a rundown of the Final Four teams and how they got there.

LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS

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