Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Rivals in the NCAA-Time

We raise them. We try to teach them right from wrong, to respect their elders. Then the cold truth sets in.

Take for example, venerable patriarch R Wanger, who this year put in a respectable (if slightly below average) effort with 240 points. Did his offspring treat him with the gentle deference he'd earned over the many years, after he brought them into and prepared them for the callous world they live in? Uh, no. Both son M Wanger and daughter K Ripley thrashed the old man, each garnering 251 points. And son-in-law P Ripley did them one better (actually three better), with 254. K Ripley chose Villanova as her champion, so if it's the Wildcats' year then K Ripley will have lived out her annual dream of "beat[ing] my dad and my husband."

The same generational behavior can be found all over. Adams kicked father Coach Doc's behind, 270 to 256. Mike Mc (230) took it to father Joe Mc (228), although Joe Mc also has Nova as champion so it's possible he'll take back his parental due. J Donadio, Sr. (273) currently clings to a lead over L Donadio (262) and J Donadio, Jr. (259), but if UNC wins it all then Jr. will spank the old man. Rubinson tried to buck this trend by choosing his entry jointly with his son, but unfortunately both of them lost (248 points).

Once mighty C Whiteside (233) these days can't even beat out the little girl in his own backyard (B Whiteside (276)). Although the former trash-talking Shabba did manage to beat out son J Whiteside (202) and also avoided a year of ignominy by edging arch-nemesis (and sister-in-law) Booth (228) by a mere five points.

Leach Gang paterfamilias E Leach (243) got a stern talking to from not one but two grandchildren, Mad Leach (255) and Sa Leach (234). Mad Leach (255) also grounded her father, P Leach (238), and if Villanova wins it all, Sa Leach (234, with Nova as champion) will have treated her father just as shabbily. At least P Leach beat out one of the family dogs (L Leach (228)).

But one father kept his #1 spot in the family household, and that was D Josephs (257), who subordinated son (and co-commissioner) M Josephs (226).

We already mentioned K Ripley's chance to beat husband P Ripley. If she succeeds it will be a clean sweep for the wives in the married couple department, joining Da Dye (226) -- who beat Do Dye (215) by 11 points -- and M Peloso (285), who skunked husband B Peloso (233) by more than 50.

But back to children. As the adage goes, they say the darnedest things. But sometimes they back it up. B Whiteside, for example, boldly bragged she would "destroy twin brother Jack," and she did, 276 to 202. J Whiteside, on the other hand, conceded that he "may not beat Brenna," but added that "Aunt Nancy has no shot." Sadly for J Whiteside (202), his Aunt, Booth (228) not only had a shot, she put the tyke in his place by more than 25 points. In Leachworld, Mad Leach (255) and Sa Leach (234) each proclaimed they would "have the best kid pool," but unless Oklahoma wins, neither will. If the Sooners take the natty, however, Mad Leach (255 with Okla as champ) will in fact beat out B Whiteside (276) for the minor pool championship. Mad Leach (255, with Okla as champ) also flatly stated she would "beat [her] sister," and she'll be right about that unless UNC wins it all, in which case Sa Leach's (234, with UNC as champ) identical assertion will turn out to be accurate.

Overall, the kid standings are in a state of flux. Four of the seven putative minors in this contest have active national champions (57%), almost triple the percentage of adults who still have a chance at getting champion points (23%). Right now, B Whiteside leads the small pack with 276 points, followed by L Donadio (262), J Donadio, Jr. (259 with UNC as champ), L Schlegel (258, with Villanova as champ), Mad Leach (255, with Oklahoma as champ), Sa Leach (234, with UNC as champ), and J Whiteside (202). If Villanova wins, the kid champion will be L Schlegel. If UNC wins, it'll be J Donadio, Jr.. And if Oklahoma wins, the minor crown goes to Mad Leach.

Among the present and/or former inhabitants of 12A, Serri (285) proved best, beating out Gorenstein (276) and Sciarabba (229). Among the Millan-aires, Karlsruher (268) looks to be on top, but T Joseph (247, with UNC as champ) still has a shot at bragging rights if UNC wins it all. Brenner (237), not so much. And Millan himself didn't even enter the contest. Best among the DBR crew will either be Biebel 2 (273) or, if Villanova wins it, ACCBballFan (261, with Villanova as champ). Looking up at their fellow DBR aficionados are Nocilla (262), Biebel 1 (258), Tommy (248), and Kedsy (206). Biebel had the distinction of beating himself, 273 to 258.

In the Leach Gang, the trash talk wasn't restricted to the children. L Leach (228) barked that he'd have "the best dog pool there is," but couldn't even beat out a mystery canine from his own family (Su Leach (282)). Octogenarian E Leach also chirped a bit, predicting he'd be "leading the over 80 club," but we can neither confirm nor deny his claim, as that information just isn't available. P Leach vowed to win the contest before he turned 50, and all we can say to that is wait 'till next year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Tale of Two Tag Teams

In the last six years, the illustrious tag team Whiteside and his Enemies has finished 2nd in the tag team competition four times, 1st once, and 3rd once. In the last million-and-six years, it seems The Leach Gang has only avoided finishing last in the competition maybe once or twice. But in this most topsy-turvy of years, in which a former First Lady and a former TV host of The Apprentice are the likely nominees for President of the United States, we guess it only makes sense that Whiteside and his Whitesidekicks have dropped off the map, with an average of 225.40 points, more than 11 points worse than the morally victorious Leaches, in second-to-last place at 236.88.

On the other end, The Donadio Group has won the tag team competition for the second season out of the last three, with an average of 264.67, just edging the present and/or former inhabitants of 12A (263.33). Bunched closely behind the leaders are Friends of DBR (251.33), the Millan-less Millan-sters (250.67), and the Ripley Believe it or Nots (249.0). Lagging behind that bunch but still ahead of the Leach and Whiteside contingents are those associated with Urban Engineers (243.60).

Also wallowing in ignominy is the average Commissioner (216.0), who trails the average pool entrant (241.43) by more than 25 points.

In other ways, however, order remains. Females (254.82), for example, have once again shown their dominance over males (238.80), suggesting that the Y-chromosome is worth approximately negative-16 points. Members of the animal kingdom (255.0) scored significantly better than humans (242.31), who in turn outperformed lawyers (233.0) by a fair margin. Children (249.43) are, on average, sticking their tongues out at their adult counterparts (240.5).

Teachers (267.80) basically took students (251.75) to school. And everyone else as well. The second best pool-picking profession this year was engineering (245.75), followed by the financial disciplines (242.82). If you're an attorney (236.0) or in a technical profession (239.33), you might as well be retired (241.00).

Only four universities were named as a favorite by more than one contestant. Of those Temple (255.50) bested Villanova (248.67), in the contest if not on the court. Running behind those local schools were Duke (246.60) and Penn State (236.56).

From a name standpoint, names that sound like "Kevin" (265.50) outshone names that sound like "Luke" (260.00) or "John" (260.00). Names that end in a "k" sound -- Mike (244.0), Rick (242.50), and Jack/Jake (235.0) -- were at least better than Jeff (232.0), David (231.50), George (226.50), or Matt (220.00).

The best states from which to select this season were New Jersey (264.67) and New York (256.75), a little better than Illinois (248.67) and California (245.00). Pennsylvania (240.33) or Florida (234.50)? Not so much. North of Pennsylvania (256.13) is a better region from which to pick pools than West of Pennsylvania (247.2) or South of Pennsylvania (238.00). Western PA (248.00) beat out Eastern PA (239.6), and Philadelphia suburbs (240.66) stuck up their noses at Philadelphia proper (226.00).

Look out for this year's edition of Rivals, coming soon to a blog near you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hypothetical Winners

The Final Four is set. And, total shocker, none of the four teams was chosen by a majority of our contestants. UNC was closest, with 30 votes out of 67, followed by Oklahoma (28), Villanova (20), and Syracuse (0). Looking forward, of the remaining four teams Villanova has the most votes for champion (8: J Broder, Crotty, S Leach, J McAtee, M Peloso, K Ripley, L Schlegel, Selig), while UNC has five big fans (Anania, T Cristinzio, J Donadio, Jr., T Joseph, Packman) and Oklahoma has four (J Donadio, Sr., M Kleiman, Mad Leach, Mahalko). Nobody had the prescience to pick Syracuse.

What that means is we know who's going to win the contest. Conditionally, that is:


1st place: M Peloso, 325 points;
2nd place: Selig, 305 points;
3rd place: Crotty, 301 points.

Just outside the money: L Schlegel (298); K Ripley (291); Serri (285).


1st place: J Donadio, Sr., 313 points
2nd place: Mad Leach, 295 points
3rd place (tie): M Peloso, 285 points;
3rd place (tie): Serri, 285 points.

Just outside the money: Su Leach (282); Mahalko (282).


1st place: J Donadio, Jr., 299 points
2nd place: T Joseph, 287 points
3rd place (tie): M Peloso, 285 points;
3rd place (tie): Serri, 285 points.

Just outside the money: Packman (284); Su Leach (282).


1st place (tie): M Peloso, 285 points;
1st place (tie): Serri, 285 points;
3rd place: Su Leach, 282 points.

Just outside the money: Gorenstein (276); Smith (276); B Whiteside (276).

So that's that. Tune in later this week for Tag Team tallies and Rivals revelry.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

And so it goes...

Now that the inevitable occurred, and our second co-favorite, Kansas, has been vanquished, it means that our consensus champion (or in this case, champions) did not even make the Final Four, and our historical pool favorite is now 6 for 27 (22.2%) across the decades. But presumably the eight entrants who chose Villanova (J Broder, Crotty, S Leach, J McAtee, M Peloso, K Ripley, L Schlegel, Selig) as national champs are happy.

As are, we assume, the four contestants who picked Oklahoma as champion (J Donadio, Sr., M Kleiman, Mad Leach, Mahalko). Oddly, although fewer people favored them as champions, more of our entrants took the Sooners into the Final Four (28) than took the Nova gang (20).

Updated standings may be found at the link on the right hand side of the page (perhaps surprisingly, the link labeled "Standings"). And those standings show M Peloso (285 points) and Su Leach (282) at the top. But neither of the leaders has any chance of getting more points tomorrow, so they should probably enjoy it while they can.

All four teams playing tomorrow (Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina, Notre Dame) are out of the ACC, meaning that league is guaranteed a spot in the championship game. And this time tomorrow, the entire Final Four will have been appointed. Here's hoping for a couple good games.


We have our Eight, and the Four get decided in the next day and a half. Surprisingly, five of our top six Final Four choices are still alive:

Kansas (chosen by 51)
Virginia (35)
North Carolina (30)
Oklahoma (28)
Villanova (20)

The only top six choice that is no longer playing is, of course, Michigan State (mourned by 45). Our seventh through eleventh most popular picks are also also-rans:

Xavier (14)
Kentucky (10)
Maryland (9)
Miami (4: Da Dye, L Leach, M McAtee, Tharp)
Iowa (4: Fitch, Pogach, Templeton, Tharp)

The three remaining Elite Eight teams raise interesting possibilities. Well, except for Syracuse, which was chosen by nary a soul. Notre Dame was also chosen by nobody to make the Final Four, but is the wild card of Gorenstein, who has ridden the 20 bonus points all the way into first place with 256 points, and L Schlegel, who currently stands tied for 8th place with 238 points. Another win by the Irish (and the corresponding 30 wild card points) could catapult these two comfortably into the winning circle. Also looking for a little windfall are the three people who took Oregon into the Final Four: D Josephs (in 10th place with 237 points); K Ripley (tied for 25th with 231 points; and Steinhardt (tied for 38th with 222 points), all of whom would presumably welcome 20 Final Four points that nobody else can achieve.

Rounding out our Final Four choices, nine teams that aren't going to get there were chosen by two entrants or fewer:

West Virginia (Booth, T Joseph)
Duke (B Whiteside, J Whiteside)
Baylor (Sa Leach, Rybaltowski)
Arizona (D Kedson, Tester)
Texas (Baumgarten)
Texas A&M (Pogach)
Utah (Sciarabba)
Iowa State (R Wanger)
Dayton (J McAtee)

Looking forward, Gorenstein seems in pretty good shape, 256 current points with the potential of snagging three Final Four teams (including his wild card): Notre Dame, Kansas, and UNC. Three others are also in the top ten of the standings and have three Final Four possibilities: Serri, who currently sits tied for 4th with 245 points and can glean Final Four points from UNC, Oklahoma, and Virginia; L Schlegel, who's currently tied for 8th with 238 points and still has Notre Dame, Virginia, and both of Kansas and Villanova (playing each other so only one can go to Houston); and D Josephs, in 10th with 237 points and Final Four hopefuls Oregon, Virginia, and Villanova.

The rest of our top ten in the standings all have the potential for two Final Four teams:

Harlan, 254 points with Virginia and both of Kansas/Villanova
M Peloso, 245 points with Oklahoma and both of Kansas/Villanova
Su Leach, 242 points with Oklahoma and both of Kansas/Villanova
Crotty, 241 points with Virginia and both of Kansas/Villanova
R Schlegel, 241 points with Virginia and Kansas
Biebel, 238 points with UNC and Kansas

The first two 2016 Final Four teams will earn their spots tonight. Savor the moment.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


The Tourney starts back up tonight, and we'll get our first four forays into the Final Eight. In the early games, Villanova (chosen into the Elite Eight by 44 entrants) takes on Miami (picked by 20), while Oklahoma (favored by 50) tries to corral Texas A&M (taken only by Pogach). In the later games it's most favored Kansas (62) against Maryland (32), and Oregon (16) vs. Duke (Grossman, J McAtee, B Whiteside, J Whiteside, plus the 31 who picked the Blue Devils as their wild card).

Tomorrow, we'll see Virginia (57) against Iowa State (7: Grossman, Miller, Pogach, Smith, Templeton, R Wanger, J Whiteside) and Wisconsin (Da Dye, Do Dye) vs. Notre Dame (Sciarabba) in the early games, while later on North Carolina (54) exchanges shots with Indiana (4: Coach Doc, L Schlegel, Sciarabba, J Whiteside). Oh, yeah, Syracuse plays Gonzaga, too, though you wouldn't know it from our contestants' predictions (or lack thereof). Nobody took either one of them.

As we mentioned Sunday, 56 of us foolishly favored Michigan State into the Elite Eight. Also wrong were the 42 of us who chose Xavier, the 22 who cared for Kentucky, the 16 who went with West Virginia, and the 11 each who chose Iowa and/or Wichita State. The following were not only mistaken, they didn't have a lot of company:

Arizona: 5 (Anania, D Kedson, Kovolski, Sa Leach, Tester)
Purdue: 4 (Mad Leach, Su Leach, Miller, Rybaltowski)
Texas: 3 (Baumgarten, L Leach, Sa Leach)
Utah: 3 (Nocilla, Sciarabba, B Whiteside)
Baylor: 3 (Booth, Sa Leach, Rybaltowski)

Special mention goes to Miller and Sciarabba, who chose uninvited Valparaiso into their Elite Eight. Special jeers go to J McAtee and Tharp, who chose ineligible SMU into theirs. And the most specialest mention of all goes to J McAtee who devoted almost 40% of his Elite Eight to ineligible SMU, Temple (only entrant to choose them) and Dayton (ditto on the only part).

Enjoy the games.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

No go, Izzo

We warned you. We could have warned him, but Tom Izzo wouldn't take our call. Our co-champion selection, Michigan State, chosen by 19 of us to win the natty, instead went down in the first round to 15-seed Middle Tennessee State in what some people are calling the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. A grand total of 56 contestants liked the Spartans into the Elite Eight, and 45 thought them Final Four-worthy. Bill Self, if you're reading this, be afraid, be very afraid.

The only other selected champion to go down was Xavier (taken by Gorenstein and Rubinson), although at least it took a buzzer-beater in the second round to eliminate them. The X-men were also a popular Elite Eight (42 entrants) and Final Four (14) selection. We'll go into more Eight/Four detail later in the week.

Out of 67 contestants, 45 have received 6 wild card points (and counting), for choosing Duke (31), Indiana (9), Wisconsin (3), or Notre Dame (2). Another 11 entrants received a single wild card point, for Utah (9) or St. Joseph's (2). Meaning only 11 entrants failed to garner any points for their wild card selection. And we will cheerfully name them: George B, Grossman, M Josephs, Rybaltowski, Sciarabba, and B Whiteside, all of whom took first round loser California; Karlsruher, who took First Four loser Vanderbilt; Tharp (South Carolina) and J Whiteside (St. Bonaventure), each of whom selected NIT teams; and Biebel 2 and T Joseph, each of whom attempted to select ineligible wild card teams. Either Wisconsin (Su Leach, Serri, Steinhardt) or Notre Dame (Gorenstein, L Schlegel) will necessarily earn at least another 20 wild card points, since the Badgers and the Irish play a Sweet 16 game on Friday. Those who chose Duke or Indiana can only hope to pile up more wild card points as well.

Since almost everybody has won wild card points, the standings haven't changed much. Harlan still leads, now with 204 points, followed by Gorenstein (196), M Peloso (195), Serri (195), Su Leach (192), Crotty (191), and R Schlegel (191).

At least one commissioner is out of town, so we'll all have to wait for the nitty-gritty for a couple days. Until then...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Holy Cross, Batman...

Holy Cross beat Southern on Wednesday night, 59 to 55, in a "First Four" game. It has nothing at all to do with our contest but still, to think that a team that plays in the Patriot League and ended the regular season with a 10-19 record will be playing 1-seed Oregon on Friday with at least a non-zero chance to win the national championship? Isn't America great? We now resume our regular programming.

What we really wanted to talk about today was crime. Well, rule-breaking. Or, more accurately, ineligibility.

For example, as always, the contest rules were posted and identified, and in the relevant regard have remained unchanged for 27 years. Those rules are (in our opinion, anyway) quite clear: any team may be selected as a wild card except the top 25 teams as of the start of the contest, clearly linked from the rules page and the entry form. But does everybody listen? Noooooooooo.

This year, two scofflaws attempted to slide an ineligible wild card past us. And as is our habit and custom and tradition, we will gleefully out them: Biebel 2 tried to take Texas A&M (#15 in the relevant AP top 25), and T Joseph attempted to slip Texas (#24 in said top 25) past us. We are pleased to say neither succeeded in their nefarious plots.

A few other wild card selections, while technically speaking within the rules, were just plain unwise. Tharp picked South Carolina, a team currently playing in the NIT, and J Whiteside chose Saint Bonaventure, a team that lost, at home, in the NIT first round. At least Karlsruher's wild card, Vanderbilt, sort of made the NCAA Tournament, losing in a "First Four" game on Tuesday.

The last time Duke was eligible to be a wild card was 1996. Presumably because they've been waiting 20 years for this opportunity, our contestants jumped at the chance. A whopping 31 entrants chose the 4-seeded Blue Devils as their wild card, by far the most of the year.

The next highest total was Indiana, also 4-seeded, with 9: Booth, M Kleiman, Kovolski, L Leach, Marshall, M Paston, B Peloso, K Ripley, Smith; tied with 3-seeded Utah (the best-seeded team of any chosen wild card), also with 9: Biebel 1, Butscher, L Donadio, Fitch, Mahalko, Pogach, R Wanger, Warner, C Whiteside. 4-seeded California got 6 votes: George B, Grossman, M Josephs, Rybaltowski, Sciarabba, B Whiteside. 7-seeded Wisconsin was the choice of three entrants (Su Leach, Serri, Steinhardt), while 6-seeded Notre Dame (Gorenstein, L Schlegel) and 8-seeded St. Joseph's (J Broder, J McAtee) were selected by two each.

But that's not the only ineligibility we want to talk about. Some of you may remember (although others clearly do not) that we posted a little friendly advice before the pool was due. We noted that a lot of teams might not be eligible to participate in the Tournament. We suggested it might behoove potential entrants to consult the list of ineligibles before filling out their entry. We even let slip the possibility of public shaming of whoever failed to heed our "friendly" advice. Despite all that, three guesses on whether our advice was followed?

Nah, you can't have three guesses. Or even two. You all know how this turned out.

A total of thirty (30) selections were wasted on ineligible teams, albeit just on three teams:

SMU (12): J Broder, T Cristinzio, Crotty, M Kleiman, Mahalko, Marshall, J McAtee, M McAtee Miller, Packman, Selig, Tharp.

Louisville (9): George B, T Cristinzio, T Joseph, J McAtee, M McAtee, Selig, Smith, Tharp, M Wanger.

Grand Canyon (9) -- yeah, we said "Grand Canyon" -- T Cristinzio, M Josephs, L Leach, Mahalko, J McAtee, Miller, Packman, Rubinson, Tharp.

Before the contest started, we predicted that some people might be in danger of selecting two ineligible teams. But even we, in our most cynical dreams, didn't imagine that a few might go for three. So if somebody doesn't mind working up a drum roll, here we go. The following three individuals wasted not one, not two, but three (3) of their choices on teams that had a zero (0) percent chance of making the Tournament: T Cristinzio, J McAtee, and Tharp. Including Grand Canyon.

Those three contestants make it almost anti-climactic to identify the five entrants who did as we predicted and chose two ineligible teams. Almost. Well, actually not almost, not close at all. Like there was any chance we'd forebear. Of course we're totally going to name them (and please imagine a sinister chuckle while you read): Mahalko, M McATee, Miller, Packman, Selig. Sort of fun, wasn't it?

The real games start tomorrow. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

No Shocker

For those of you who indulge in advanced stats, you must know the name Pomeroy. His rating system, which tracks points per possession and points allowed per possession and then uses a series of complex formulas to derive a team ranking is very well known in college basketball circles. Most of the time his ratings are at least comparable to conventional wisdom, but every once in awhile a team sticks out.

Like Wichita State this season. Coming into the tournament, Pomeroy ranked the Shockers as the #12 team in the nation. But the selection committee, which obviously paid such advanced statistics little heed, not only seeded Wichita as an 11-seed, but made them participate in a play-in game (a.k.a., the First Four) against Vanderbilt.

This was no cakewalk. Vanderbilt also had a legitimate gripe about having to go through the First Four, being rated #27 by Pomeroy coming into the tourney. Still, Wichita State prevailed, making the Commodores look like that old-time singing group, and winning 70-50.

Next, Wichita State must play Arizona on Thursday night. That sound you're hearing is the nine contestants who chose Wichita State into the Elite Eight (Baumgarten, Da Dye, Do Dye, Fitch, Grossman, Su Leach, M McAtee, Miller, M Peloso, Rubinson, L Schlegel) breathing a major sigh of relief. Or maybe it's the sound of gnashing teeth belonging to Karlsruher, who took Vanderbilt as his wild card.

Two more play-in games tomorrow, and then the main event begins. Stay tuned.

Champs, or Chumps?

In the 26 years this contest has been run, our contestants' consensus national champion has won six (6) times. That's a success rate of 23%. But our question is, if our entrants have two top teams, because of a tie, does that double our chances? If so, that would bring us within four percent of flipping a coin! Yowsa.

Well, we'll discover the answer to that question this year, as both Kansas and Michigan State polled 19 votes each. Naturally, Butscher went for one of the two most popular choices, in this case Michigan State, presumably dooming the Spartans to an early upset. The Kansas Jayhawks will probably feel pretty good about that, until someone reminds them that they're still the co-favorite of our entrants.

Nine of us chose Virginia as national champion (George B, Booth, L Leach, Nocilla, Rybaltowski, Sciarabba, R Simon, Warner, J Whiteside), while eight intrepid souls went for local favorite Villanova (J Broder, Crotty, S Leach, J McAtee, M Peloso, K Ripley, L Schlegel, Selig). North Carolina was the darlings of five contestants (Anania, T Cristinzio, J Donadio, Jr., T Joseph, Packman). Oklahoma was OK for four (J Donadio, Sr., M Kleiman, Mad Leach, Mahalko). Two entrants are crossing their appendages for Xavier (Gorenstein and Rubinson).

As you might have noticed, our top seven champion choices were all #1 or #2 seeds. Only one non-top-two seed got a vote for champion, and that would be Maryland, chosen by co-commissioner M Josephs. Fair warning, the last time M Josephs was the sole person favoring a champion was 1998, when he rode Kentucky all the way to the winnings. Can lightning strike twice? Hey, you never know.

We can't remember the last time in our contest that a #1-seed failed to win a single vote for national champ, but that's just what happened to #1-seed Oregon this season. Those sounds you're hearing are the mad cheers of Ducks' fans everywhere, because they know their chances just got better.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What's in your bracket?

As police search for the shadowy figure who leaked the tournament bracket on twitter, we know our contestants are focused on a much more exigent mystery: How'd Butscher do? The answer is, for him, pretty well. He went with most popular picks in the Sun Belt and Big 10, and shockingly won them both. He tried the second-most popular picks in the Atlantic 10 and the SEC, and predictably dropped both of those. Altogether, Butscher correctly picked 6 out of 32 conference champions. But the big news is that only tied him for worst performance of the year. Yes, another entrant, Tharp, also flubbed 26 of the 32 conferences, and what's more, Butscher picked more correct at-large teams than Tharp and has thus risen to second-to-last place. We guess congratulations are in order.

Lost in the excitement of Butscher's achievements, however, is the utter ineptitude of our contestants in general. Only two entrants accurately selected more than half the conference champions (Harlan, with 18 of 32; and M Wanger, with 17). Only two additional entrants got as many as half correct (Marshall and Crotty, each with 16).

As in the classic movie, Murder on the Orient Express, the number 12 keeps cropping up. More than 60% of us managed 12 or fewer conference winners. Perhaps not coincidentally, a majority of us guessed the conference winner in just 12 of the 32 conferences. Perhaps even less coincidentally, there were also 12 conferences that six (6) or fewer of us got right:

- NEC (Fairleigh Dickinson): 6 (Fitch, M Josephs, M Peloso, Selig, R Simon, M Wanger);
- SWAC (Southern U.): 5 (George B, Booth, Gorenstein, Rubinson, Rybaltowski);
- Atlantic Sun (Florida-Gulf Coast): 4 (L Leach, Sa Leach, Marshall, Rybaltowski);
- MAC (Buffalo): 3 (Sa Leach, Su Leach, R Simon);
- WAC (Cal-State Bakersfield): 2 (Crotty, Harlan);
- Mountain West (Fresno St.): 2 (J Broder, Pogach);
- Conference USA (Middle Tennessee State): 2 (L Leach, J Miller);
- Big East (Seton Hall): 1 (Fitch);
- MVC (Northern Iowa): 1 (L Schlegel);
- OVC (Austin Peay): 0 (nobody);
- Horizon (Green Bay): 0 (not a soul);
- Patriot (Holy Cross): 0 (zip, nada, zilch, you get the gist, right?);

While some would argue leading this pack is hardly an achievement, we still give a prize to the leader as of the selection of the field (i.e., now), and this year that prize goes to Harlan, who has mustered 198 points. Currently in second place (even less of an achievement and even less of a... well, no prize at all) is Gorenstein, with 190, followed by M Peloso and Serri, each with 189. Another 18 contestants are within a Final Four selection (20 points) of the leader.

We'll spend much of the week analyzing our contestants' "wisdom" and looking ahead to the tournament. Have fun filling out your bracket.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


As of 1am on Saturday night (really Sunday morning), 26 conferences have determined their champion, with one late game still going on and five more tomorrow. When we last left everybody's favorite hard luck poolster, Butscher, despite his having chosen either the most popular or second-most popular team in all 32 conferences, he had whiffed on his first 13 chances to get a point. Let's see how he did today, shall we?

In Conference USA, Middle Tennessee State (chosen by L Leach and J Miller) edged Old Dominion (chosen only by Tester), 55-53. Butscher went with the most popular pick, UAB, which was upset earlier in the tournament. Butscherwatch: oh for 14.

Butscher also lost his Big East pick yesterday, Xavier (2nd most popular choice), but nearly everybody else lost today, as Villanova (taken by 44) went down my a mere basket to Seton Hall (picked by Fitch), 69-67. Butscherwatch: oh for 15.

In the Mountain West, Butscher's pick was again the most popular but not the most successful, as San Diego State (touted by 64) lost to Fresno State (guessed by J Broder, Pogach), 68-63. Butscherwatch: oh for 16.

In the SWAC, Butscher once again went with the most popular choice, but you see the trend here? Texas Southern (taken by 62) lost yesterday and Southern University (selected by 5: George B, Booth, Gorenstein, Rubinson, Rybaltowski) squeaked by Jackson State (predicted by nobody), 54-53. Butscherwatch: oh for 17.

In the MAC, it was déjà vu all over again, as Butscher went with favorite Akron (taken by 58), then watched the Zips lose to Buffalo (picked by 3: Sa Leach, Su Leach, R Simon) on a late three-pointer, 64-61. Butscherwatch: oh for 18.

In the Big Sky, Butscher liked second-most popular Montana (taken by 16), but the Grizzlies failed to get past Weber State (selected by 48), losing 62-59. Butscherwatch: oh for 19.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Butscher selected most popular Virginia in the ACC, only to see the Hoos fall to the Heels of UNC (taken by 17), 61-57. Butscherwatch: oh for 20.

At the risk of sounding like a brokener record, the big, bad Butscher chose most popular New Mexico State (selected by 59) in the WAC, only to see the Aggies go down on a last second three-pointer by CS-Bakersfield (chosen by Crotty, Harlan), 57-54. Butscherwatch: oh for 21.

The Pac 12 continued the Butscheristic trend, with a twist. Our hero selected Utah, the second-most popular choice, but Utah didn't lose close like all those others. No, the Utes got smashed into tiny pieces, 88-57, at the hands of the Oregon Ducks (taken by 29). Butscherwatch: oh for 22.

In the Big West, most popular Hawaii (taken by 47) is currently winning over Long Beach State (liked by 3: Baumgarten, P Leach, Templeton), but Butscher went with second-most popular UC-Irvine, who bowed out some time ago. Similarly, he went with Temple, the most popular pick in the AAC, but tomorrow's AAC championship game is between Connecticut (picked by 13) and Memphis (favored by nobody). Butscherwatch: oh for 24.

But then a funny thing happened in the America East conference: Butscher picked a favorite (Stony Brook, taken by 55), and the favorite won, beating Vermont (picked by Su Leach, Pogach), 80-74. Then again in the MEAC, where Butscher's pick, Hampton (chosen by 47), beat South Carolina State (selected by 9: Anania, Booth, L Leach, J McAtee, M Peloso, Rubinson, Rybaltowski, R Simon, Tharp), 81-69. Then one more time, in the Big 12, Butscher went with the most popular team (Kansas, picked by 43), and that popular club beat West Virginia (taken by 4: J Donadio, Jr., L Leach, Rubinson, Templeton), 81-71. In the Southland, he once again went with a favorite (Stephen F. Austin, selected by 64) and that favorite clobbered a pretender (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, taken by 3: George B, Booth, J McAtee), by a score of 82-60. So, happy days but not that happy. Final Butscherwatch of the day: 4 for 28.

For those wishing to place bets on tomorrow's games, the Butscher has favorites Michigan State (taken by 42) and Arkansas-Little Rock (liked by 53), and second-most popular VCU (among 15) and Texas A&M (among 9: Booth, J Broder, Butscher, Kovolski, B Peloso, Pogach, Smith, Steinhardt).

Tops in the standings is M Wanger, with 68 points, followed by M Peloso (66), Harlan (66), Crotty (64), and R Simon (64). Another nine entrants have more than 60 points, with a lot more points to be decided tomorrow. Last place, of course, belongs to Butscher, with 29 points.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Getting there

More big conference action tonight, starting with the Big East, where Xavier (picked by 22 of us) got taken down by Seton Hall (selected by Fitch). In the Big 10, Indiana (chosen by 8: Coach Doc; J Donadio, Jr.; Gorenstein; Mahalko; K Ripley; Selig; M Wanger; J Whiteside) lost to Michigan (guessed by nobody). In the Big 12, Oklahoma (predicted by 17) suffered a last second heartbreaker at the hands of West Virginia (taken by 4: J Donadio, Jr.; L Leach; Rubinson, Templeton), while Baylor (liked by S Leach) and Iowa State (selected by Steinhardt) were also sent home.

The ACC saw Miami (taken by 9: Biebel, Booth, J Broder, Da Dye, S Leach, M McAtee, B Peloso, K Ripley, Rubinson) lose a close one and Notre Dame (selected by Steinhardt) get clobbered. In the Pac 12, Arizona (favorited by 18) went belly up. In the AAC, Cincinnati (liked by 13) lost to UConn (also liked by 13) in 4 overtimes, while Tulsa (believed in by 5: S Adams; Anania; Fitch; Rybaltowski; Sciarabba) took a tumble, as well.

Also in the AAC, six entrants went with ineligible SMU (J Broder, Crotty, Mahalko, M McAtee, Selig, Tharp). And, similarly to yesterday, we'll make a bold prediction that this won't be the last time you hear about it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The big boys in action

The big conference tournaments are under way. Excitement builds in the days leading up to Selection Sunday. But ironically, news in our contest is lightest around now. In fact, the biggest news of the day is for the 2017 tournament: the Ivy League announced they will have a four team tournament next season to determine the league's automatic bid. Hallelujah.

Those of you who called your bookie to employ the Butscher factor probably cashed in pretty good. As we predicted, Butscher's choice, Lehigh, dropped the Patriot League final to Holy Cross, a team that finished ninth in the low-major Patriot League with a 14-18 win/loss record, as well as having no supporters among our contestants. Butscher is now oh for 13.

The trend of our entrants' favorite failing to meet expectations continued in Conference USA, where UAB (chosen by 60 out 67) got conked out by nobody's choice Western Kentucky.

Other than that, very few entries have been affected lately. In the MAC, M Josephs's and L Leach's faith in Ball State was proven misplaced. Similarly, Tharp probably wishes he hadn't backed Texas in the Big 12. In the Big 10, T Joseph, Mad Leach, Rybaltowski, and R Wanger erred on the side of Iowa. The Vanderbilt dreams of Baumgarten, Da Dye, L Leach, and L Schlegel were dashed in the SEC. And Duke blowing a 16 point lead in the ACC presumably irritated J Donadio, Jr., Grossman, D Kedson, E Leach, J McAtee, and Tester.

Also in the ACC, we noticed that current leader T Cristinzio picked ineligible Louisville to win it. We'll go out on a limb and predict this won't be the last time you hear about that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Seven more conference champions have been crowned the past couple days, and two of them our contestants actually predicted correctly, bringing the total of conference champions that a majority of us picked up to three out of 12 (25%).

Joining the Ivy League's Yale (chosen by 41) were Chattanooga (picked by 54 of us), which beat ETSU (taken by 12) in the Southern Conference, and South Dakota State (chosen by 47) which beat North Dakota State (liked by nobody) in the battle for Dakota Fanning, er, the Summit League.

The rest of the conference champions showed up on the minority report. In the hotly contested WCC, Gonzaga (32) beat St. Mary's (30). In the similarly bifurcated CAA, UNCW (29) bested Hofstra (30) in OT. Just 16 of us went with Iona, which beat favorite Monmouth (48) by 3 points. And only six entrants had the prescience to pick Fairleigh Dickinson (Fitch, M Josephs, M Peloso, Selig, R Simon, M Wanger) over the operatic Wagner (50). Basically everybody was fuddled by the Horizon League, where Green Bay (favored by nobody) beat Wright State (chosen by only Pogach).

We've posted standings, which may be found in the link in this sentence and also on the right hand side of this page. A grand total of two (2) of us have accurately predicted more than half of the 12 conferences that have been decided, as both T Cristinzio and M Peloso got 7 of 12. Despite a percentage (58.3%) that would earn a grade of F in most area high schools, T Cristinzio and M Peloso currently share first place in our contest, each with 35 points. Just behind the leaders is M Wanger with 33 points and 6 correct conference champions. Also with 6 conference champs are Crotty, Marshall, Selig, and R Simon, all with 30 points.

Three contestants got only one conference correct: B Peloso (husband of co-leader M Peloso), M Paston, and L Donadio, all of whom have 5 points. But the most amazing performance so far belongs to Jeff "The Butcher" Butscher, who is 0 for 12 so far. Giving him zero (0) points.

It's not just that Butscher has failed to guess a single conference champion. No, it's the manner of his defeat. He didn't go out on a limb for the Florida A&Ms or Central Connecticuts of the world. Of the 12 conference champions so far, Butscher chose either our contestants' consensus favorite (Wichita State (chosen by 65); Valparaiso (62); North Florida (59); Belmont (56); Wagner (50); Monmouth (48); and Hofstra (30)) or our second favorite (St. Mary's (30); Princeton (26); High Point (22); IPFW (15); and ETSU (12)). He just somehow managed to lose every one. In fully half of the conferences decided so far, Butscher could have won points from a team in the conference final. But every single one lost.

Tomorrow, the Patriot League will hold its final game, and Butscher is among the nine entrants who took finalist Lehigh. And in a few days, he has Stony Brook playing in the America East championship game. After hearing those facts, however, we've learned the smart money has shifted to Holy Cross and Vermont. We'd feel sorry for him if it wasn't so funny.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hey, Bulldog

Five conferences have crowned a champion, and our contestants guessed one of them. Congratulations to Yale and the 41 contestants who chose the first place Ivy team that tonight clinched the Ivy League's automatic bid without the bother of a league tournament.

Of the four conferences who actually finished a conference tournament, the best our group could do was 11 of 67 (16.4%). That was our score in the Big South, where UNC-Ashville (chosen by 11: T Cristinzio, Crotty, Coach Doc, Harlan, T Joseph, Mad Leach, Packman, Pogach, Selig, Templeton, Tester) beat up a character from the Music Man (Winthrop, chosen by 28 of us). In the Atlantic Sun, Florida Gulf Coast (taken by 4: L Leach, Sa Leach, Marshall, Rybaltowski) dashed the hopes of ineligible Stetson -- as well as the 59 of us who hoped that regular season champion North Florida would steal the bid on a technicality -- edging the Hatters by 2 points in overtime. In the MVC, Northern Iowa (schelected only by L Schlegel) culminated its conference run by beating 2-seed Evansville one day after besting 1-seed Wichita State. And, as reported yesterday, none of us were savvy enough to pick OVC champ Austin Peay.

Another four conferences are on the verge of finishing up. In the Colonial, it'll be Hofstra (selected by 30) vs. UNC-Wilmington (selected by 29). The MAAC will pit Monmouth (favored by 48) vs. Iona (16). In the Southern Conference, Chattanooga (54) will take on East Tennessee State (12). And in the Patriot League, 9-seed Holy Cross (picked by none of us), having crushed 4-seed Army (60-38) the day after thrashing 1-seed Bucknell, will face Lehigh (taken by 9: Biebel 2, Butscher, Crotty, M Kleiman, L Leach, M McAtee, P Ripley, Sciarabba, J Whiteside).

Championship week's just getting started. Another 27 automatic bids to be determined.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

An Interesting Twist

The Atlantic Sun conference championship takes place tomorrow, when the Stetson Hatters take on the Florida Gulf Coast Coasters (actually, the Eagles). As we mentioned yesterday, only four entrants chose FGCU (L Leach, Sa Leach, Marshall, Rybaltowski). None chose Stetson, for good reason, as the Hatters are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.

So what happens if Stetson wins? Well, the answer lies in an article we linked to a couple weeks ago. If you don't feel like clicking, we'll give you a spoiler: if an ineligible team wins the Atlantic Sun, then the regular season champion is awarded the conference's automatic bid. Which means if Stetson wins, then the 59 of us who chose North Florida get a second chance at the points. An interesting twist, wouldn't you say?

Moving along, the first bid of 2016 was claimed today. And nobody cared. At least nobody affiliated with our contest. That's because not a single one of us was clever enough to choose Austin Peay as OVC champion. As the old cheer used to go, "1-2-3, Let's Go Peay."

The top Big South seed, High Point, lost today, much to the chagrin of the 22 of us who chose the Panthers to win their conference. The conference final will take place tomorrow, between Winthrop (taken by 28) and UNC-Ashville (itemized by 11).

In the MVC, overwhelming favorite Wichita State (selected by 65 out of 67) went down to Northern Iowa (schelected jucsht by shrewd L Schlegel), which will square off in the conference final tomorrow against Evansville (not selected by anybody).

In the NEC, our favorite composing hoopsters, Wagner (picked by 50) will face off against Fairleigh Dickinson (picked by Fitch, M Josephs, M Peloso, Selig, R Simon, and M Wanger).

G'night now. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Little Stumbles

Championship week is now four days old, and three prohibitive favorites (at least according to our entrants) have already gone down.

Out of 67 contestants, 59 of us chose North Florida in the Atlantic Sun. Instead, that conference final will feature Florida Gulf Coast (picked by 4: L Leach; Sa Leach; Marshall; Rybaltowski) vs. Stetson (picked by nobody).

Belmont (chosen by 56) lost by a point in OT to Austin Peay (chosen by none). The Governors will face Tennessee-Martin (chosen by only Nocilla) in the OVC final.

In the Patriot League, Bucknell (selected by 51) got punked by Holy Cross (selected by zero). There are still four teams left in the Patriot, but Lehigh (chosen by 9) is the only one of the four that received more than one vote from our contestants (the other semi-finalists are American (taken by Fitch) and Army (nada)).

Only a couple other games of even minor consequence to our contest have taken place in the past couple days. Coastal Carolina (chosen by 6: Baumgarten; Fitch; Gorenstein; M Josephs; L Leach; Rybaltowski) was eliminated in the Big South, and Illinois State (taken by Fitch) went down in the MVC.

So, basically, same old, same old. Talk soon.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

We're off...

We have 67 entries in our 27th annual Pre-NCAA Contest, and the games have begun.

Well, two days worth of games, anyway. You'd think on the first day of conference tournament play, with top seeds playing low-major bottom-feeders, we'd all be safe, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong.

You'd be really wrong if you were Tharp or Brenner, both of whom have already lost two conference champions. For Tharp it was his Atlantic Sun champion (Jacksonville) on March 1 and his NEC champion (St Francis PA) on March 2. Brenner dropped both of his (America East champ Albany and NEC champ St. Francis PA) on March 2. But the good news (at least for them) is these unfortunate souls were not alone. Fourteen other entrants have already lost a conference champ.

And we will gladly name them. Joining Tharp and Brenner in ignominy were:

Jacksonville (4): Packman, Selig, Tharp, Surprise Leach

Albany (8): Brenner, Broder, D Kedson, M Leach, M Paston, Biebel 2, Rybaltowski, Sciarabba

In the NEC:
St. Francis NY (1): Grossman
St. Francis PA (4): Anania, Brenner, Karlsruher, Tharp

In the OVC:
Tennessee Tech (1): Geo B

More games tonight, and speaking only for ourselves, we can't wait to see who's next.