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NCAA March Madness inspires locker room war among Utah Jazz rookies

MEMPHIS — On any given day, you may see Utah Jazz players hanging out or joking with each other on social media.

Those interactions have formed a brotherhood, which has helped the team win 17 of their last 19 games and 10 straight on the road.

“It starts off the court; we’ve got a great bunch of guys around here, on the plane, in Salt Lake,” said Jazz forward Joe Ingles. “It’s just not fake; everyone enjoys each other’s company and enjoy hanging out with each other, and that really does translate over.”

Even as close as they are, the guys aren’t immune good ol' college basketball trash talk — especially rookies Donovan Mitchell, Tony Bradley, Royce O’Neale and Erik McCree.

Selection Sunday will kick off the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 4 p.m. MT on TBS. will also stream the show live online.

Sixty-eight teams will be picked for March Madness.

The Jazz rookies will be in New Orleans to face the Pelicans for their third consecutive road game as it’s happening, but they’ll certainly be engaged.

“I’ll probably watch and probably talk some noise,” said Mitchell, a former Louisville star. “It’ll be interesting to see where we fall, see where we land, see how we do. We will see.”

Mitchell said he talks the most trash to his teammates about college basketball.

“Probably because no one watches it like I do,” Mitchell said. “And I just came out of college so I enjoy talking about it.”

O’Neale, a Baylor product, is often engaged in verbal wars with Mitchell about his guys. Baylor is also in the hunt to make the NCAA Tournament.

“What’s your record versus Baylor?” O’Neale trolled Mitchell.

“We only played one game,” Mitchell responded.

“But what’s your record?” O’Neale shot back.

“Bet money y’all don’t beat us again,” Mitchell declared.

Bradley has recently joined in on the back-and-forth locker room chatter in defense of his North Carolina Tar Heels. The 6-foot-10 center was a member of North Carolina’s 2017 national championship team that defeated Gonzaga, 71-65.

“It feels like yesterday I was just at Carolina,” Bradley said. “This time last year, we were at Coach (Roy) Williams's house watching the Selection Sunday to see where we were at, so it’s pretty cool.”

Bradley’s busy schedule with the Jazz and Salt Lake City Stars has made it tough for him to catch as many college games as he would like to, but he definitely tunes in when he can. As it gets more serious with the NCAA Tournament around the corner, he’s planning to pay more attention. He’s pulling for his Tar Heels to win it all again.

“I feel like they’ve got a shot,” Bradley said. “It depends on who they match up with. It was a wonderful experience (to win the title last year) that I’ll never forget.”

A few bets are in place, and one involves dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Winner has to pay up.

“It’s competitive,” O’Neale said. “Especially every time somebody plays and they lose. As soon as you get that text, everybody gets on each other about it.”