Saturday, March 26, 2011

And Then There Were Eight...

Well, the madness has continued and now we have reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. There continue to be plenty of great games, surprising upsets, and dominating performances along the way. And, it’s starting to take its toll on the brackets.

After breezing through the early rounds unscathed and moving up to as high as 24th overall out of 5.9 million entries worldwide, Six Degrees of MVNUSID contest leader and WBNS Channel 10 weatherman Josh Poland who had at least a 50-point lead on the rest of the field after the first two rounds saw his bracket begin to evaporate like dew on a summer morning. He went 0-for-4 on the first day of the Sweet Sixteen before finally getting two picks right on the second day, but it was enough of a hit that it dropped him back into fourth place – 70 points behind the top spot.

Speaking of the top spot, we have a new leader atop the standings. George Hartz, one of my running buddies and the captain of the Mount Vernon Police Department, correctly picked five of the Elite Eight winners to blow past the rest of the field and take a 60-point lead on his nearest challengers. Although he has a passion for Krispy Kreme donuts (see the photo from his 40th birthday party), he told me that PF Changs would be his restaurant of choice if he won. And who can blame him…their lettuce wraps are amazing!

However, George is going to have to be perfect the rest of the way as his predicted champion, Ohio State, along with 11 other contestants in the current top 20, was knocked out by Kentucky on a last-second shot last night. Here's a look at George's bracket below:

That leaves the door open for several people to possibly move into the top spot as the Elite Eight games begin on Saturday. Nate Okuley, one of my former student workers and a current MVNU admissions counselor, and Josh Wood, another former MVNU student and WNZR sports announcer who has stayed around the top of the leaderboard for most of the contest, are currently tied for second place. Nate has the best chance to win the overall title with a whopping 880 possible points still remaining in his bracket and North Carolina as his predicted national champion. Josh still has his predicted champion, Kentucky, on the board along with 560 possible points remaining.

Well, as the games continue on Saturday, we've also reached the point where 18 of the 68 people in the contest have already been eliminated due to having either no possible points remaining or not enough to catch the current leader. There are still 17 entrants with their predicted national champion still alive, and amazingly even the person in 67th place right now, Niki Murray, has a chance to win it all since she has UCONN still alive as her champion. Stay tuned to see what happens!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Near-Perfect Three-Day Forecast

Well, we are three days into the NCAA Tournament and the second annual Six Degrees of MVNUSID bracket contest is pleased to have one of the nation's best amongst its ranks.

Josh Poland, a meteorologist from WBNS 10TV in Columbus, has just flat out rocked his picks so far. He went a blazing 29-for-32 in the first round with his only misses being Temple and UCLA (where he picked upsets to happen) and Virginia Commonwealth (which ended the perfect bracket chances for even the final two contestants in the overall ESPN contest as they went 31-for-32).

Then, on the third day of the tournament, Josh continued his hot streak by going 7-for-8 to improve to 26-for-40 overall. His one miss on day three may prove costly, though, as Butler's upset of No. 1 seed Pittsburgh cost him not only that game, but one of his Final Four teams. However, Josh has done so well that he entered the fourth day of action ranked 31st out of the more than five million people who entered brackets on

However, as you can see by Josh's bracket (below), he's still got plenty of good picks left. His total of 430 points is 60 points higher than first-day leader Jake Wood and my running buddy Chad Sims, who both currently check in with 370 points. Four more people are right behind them with 360 points. I also need to give a belated shoutout to Columbus Dispatch sportswriter Rob Oller (27-for-32) and Davenport University sports information director Aaron Sagraves (26-for-32), who were second and third respectively after the end of the first two days of the contest.

Through three days of action and thanks to some upsets, two people (Kristin Adams with Georgetown and Patrick Neville with Pittsburgh) have already lost their predicted champion. I'm sure that several others will be joining that list soon as the journey to the Final Four continues on Sunday.

Well, it's time to sit back and enjoy some more games. What have been your favorite moments so far? And what are your thoughts of having all the games available on CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV?

As for Josh, who tweeted "The forecast calls for scattered tears from everyone whose butt I whoop!" prior to the contest, he did not want to take anything for granted when I asked him what his winning restaurant would be. Instead, he took the more Coach Thad Matta-like approach of "Don't want to think that far ahead...we just take each game one at a time."

That's exactly how I plan to enjoy the rest of the tournament.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"The Ball is Up...."

Well, the action got tipped off in a big way on Thursday as March Madness and the NCAA Tournament got under way. Upsets, buzzer-beaters, comebacks, and Cinderella shoe-fittings all began to take place as a national audience watched.

My second annual Six Degrees of MVNUSID bracket contest got under way as well with a record 68 entrants - the same size as the tournament field - all vying for a $25 gift card to the restaurant of their choice and bragging rights.

Well, it only took one game to wipe out the perfect bracket chances of 13 of those prognosticators and then by the time the second game was over we were down to just 30 perfect brackets left. By the time that Morehead State finished off their upset of Louisville in the third game of the tournament, only WBNS 10TV meteorologist Josh Poland and Central Methodist sports information director Kelcey Zutavern were left with perfect brackets.

After the dust had settled from the day's 16 games, Jacob Wood (also known as "Gator" due to his love of the Florida Gators) stood alone at the top of the heap as he correctly picked 15 of the 16 games. His only blemish came with the Morehead State upset, but less than 5% of the people nationally who filled out the brackets had seen that one coming. Gator (above), who is a former student worker of mine while he attended Mount Vernon Nazarene University, is hoping that his picks can continue to pan out so he can enjoy his winnings at Chick-fil-A. You can see a copy of Gator's bracket below:

Hot on Gator's tail are Josh Poland, Rob Oller, and Josh Wood, who each correctly picked 14 of 16 games on the first day. Rob is a sports writer for the Columbus Dispatch, while Josh is Gator's brother as the Wood family combined for a great showing on the first day.

Well, it's about time to get comfortable for another 12-hour journey of ups and downs, dunks and 3-pointers, old favorites and new heros to take the spotlight. Enjoy the ride!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Madness is Back!!!

One of my favorite times of the year is back...March Madness! I love college basketball and tonight tips off three weeks of hoops nirvana with the release of the 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket.

Nothing complements March Madness any better than entering a bracket contest, too. So, for the second straight year, I am looking to connect all of my online friends from Twitter and Facebook to enjoy the games together. To encourage you to enter and also check back with my blog, I'm going to award a $25 gift card to the winner to the restaurant of his or her choice. So, you have nothing to lose and lots of bragging rights and a free dinner to gain.

Last year's contest was a big success with 52 entrants and a lot of fun with several different people taking the lead along the way and getting featured in the blog before my wife, Carla, did what she does to me pretty much every year in this contest - she won! She beat out 51 other people including several sports information directors, sports PR experts, a sports reporter from a major newspaper, and a TV news anchor to claim the inaugural crown.

All you need to do to enter is to go to the private group that I've set up on ESPN's site under the title Six Degrees of MVNUSID. The password is MVNUSID. Get your bracket submitted before tip off of the first game on Thursday (approximately noon ET) and then check back with the blog each day as I highlight who is winning after each round of games. I'll look forward to reading your comments, too, as you have the opportunity to tell the world that you called the big upset as it happens.

Good luck and enjoy the Madness!