By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
I had a friend, who will remain nameless, who always seemed to pick every game and every upset right during the NCAA tournament. It was uncanny. A 14 seed would knock off a three seed and he'd reply, "Yeah, I picked that one." A number one seed would fall in the second round; "I had that one on my bracket," he'd say.
I could never figure out how he did it. He must have been the greatest college basketball prognosticator in the world. I always considered myself something of a minor expert in NCAA hoops, but this guy seemed to make me look stupid.
I had to find out his secret. I begged, pleaded and asked how he did it. He said it was pure knowledge of the game. But that wasn't entirely true. After following and watching this master at work, I figured out how this guy always seemed to get every game right. And now I will share it with you.
The guy filled out 87 brackets.
Yep, that's the reason he could always say he picked each game right on his bracket because he had 87 different ones filled out differently. Every possible game that came up, he picked right. What a sham.
If there is one thing that I've learned from years and years of participating in NCAA tournament pools, it's that the person who knows the most about college basketball doesn't always win. Last year during my internship, I bragged that I was a college basketball guru to my fellow employees.
When it came time for the office pool, I felt supremely confident. I'd read about and watched enough college hoops to start sounding like Dick Vitale. I studied, analyzed and filled out my bracket like most people fill out their SATs.
And you know what happened? I didn't win it.
I didn't finish in the top five or even the top 10. Out of 50 people, I finished third to last, just ahead of the woman, who used her goldfish to pick games and the guy who filled out his bracket wrong.
Even worse, a woman, who picked her bracket according to who had better looking uniforms, and another woman, who picked games by choosing the team with the tougher mascot, both finished ahead of me.
Because we aren't having an office pool here at the Havre Daily, George and I decided to do this little pool of our own.
It's run just like any other pool, with points being given for each winner picked and the points escalating the further the tournament progresses.
There is one big difference though, these picks are made public for everyone to mock and tease.
We took six other people who we believed had a pretty good working knowledge of NCAA basketball to fill out brackets and compete among each other in the first annual Havre Daily News Bracket-Ball Challenge:
Ryan Divish, Daily News sports editor
My one shining moment in picking NCAA teams came in 1993 (my senior year in high school, damn I'm getting old), when I captured the Gallery Lounge tournament pool by picking my beloved North Carolina Tarheels over the Michigan Wolverines to win the title.
My bracket success has pretty much gone downhill since. But this is the year that I return triumphantly to the top with my mixture of first-round upsets and my A.B.D. (Anyone But Duke) philosophy.
My first round upset winners include Weber State, Tulsa, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado, Pennsylvania. However, none of those upset winners will win another game after that. But look for St. Joseph's, Maryland, Connecticut to pick up second round upsets along with the magical upset of Duke by the Kyle Korver-led Creighton Bluejays. The Sweet 16 won't be too kind to Arizona as Illinois knocks them off while Texas will lose to Florida in the Elite Eight. All of this setting up a Final Four consisting of Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma and Florida with Kentucky defeating Oklahoma in the championship.
My picks might not be exactly right, but just as long as its anyone but Duke winning the title.
George Ferguson, Daily News sports writer
My partner-in-crime is also a die-hard North Carolina fan. How die-hard? George was planning on going to Salt Lake City to attack Duke's J.J. Redick Nancy Kerrigan-style this weekend. He doesn't just hate Duke. He loathes them.
Despite his anger with the Blue Devils, George still maintains a clear head when picking the bracket and his hours upon hours of college hoop viewing can only be a plus.
He only picked two first round upsets with Weber and Arizona State winning. But in the second round he has LSU knocking off number one seed Texas, Marquette losing to Missouri, St. Joe's beating two seed Wake Forest and Maryland beating Florida. In fact, he rides Maryland all the way to the Final Four where they will be joined by Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma, with Arizona defeating Oklahoma for the title.
Gerry Veis, Bear Paw Credit Union
He told me point blank that he has never won a single dollar in a bracket pool. After looking at some of his picks, I understand why.
Veis, whose philosophy when playing hoops was "you're always open, so you might as well shoot," picked several upsets throughout the tournament including Creighton making it to the Elite Eight by knocking off Duke, Memphis defeating Kansas and three-seeds Marquette and Xavier making it to the Final Four along with Arizona and Oklahoma. In the championship, he has Oklahoma defeating Marquette 89-81.
If he's right about these upsets, he will win this pool in a walk. If not, another year without making a dollar.
Harvey Brock, Daily News publisher
We included him not because he's our boss, but he's a big college hoop fan. After dealing with his beloved Bobcats beating the Griz this year, we need something to get back at him with. Besides loving MSU, he is also a major Arizona hoops supporter. So nothing would be sweeter than seeing the Wildcats knocked off early.
Of course, he picked Arizona to win it all. But he did pick some different upsets along the way including Western Kentucky making it to the Sweet 16, Mississippi State beating Louisville and Oklahoma, Maryland beating Florida and Pitt beating Kentucky. His Final Four consists of Arizona, Pitt, Texas and Syracuse with the Wildcats defeating the Orangemen in the final.
Mark West, HHS boys basketball coach
West definitely took the most time filling out the bracket. Maybe because he lost the one we gave him. Still, West wasn't afraid to pick a few upsets including Butler defeating Mississsippi State, Oklahoma State knocking off Syracuse and Wake Forest to make it to the Elite Eight. But that's where his upsets end as he has all four number one seeds - Arizona, Texas, Kentucky and Oklahoma - in the Final Four. Like me, he picked Kentucky and Oklahoma to make it to the finals with the Sooners winning the title.
Dennis Murphy, HHS girls basketball coach
Murphy's picture in this story isn't the greatest mainly because we can't seem to locate any pictures of him. We hoped to take one of him before press time, but he snuck out of town with a group of friends to go to Salt Lake City for the West Region first-round games. While he's in Salt Lake, Murphy will get to see the likes of Arizona, Gonzaga, Duke and Creighton. Man, I'm jealous.
Like West, Murphy picked Butler in a first round upset, but he also picked LSU to defeat Texas in the second round and unfortunately picked Duke to beat Arizona. His Final Four consists of Kentucky, Duke, Florida and Wake Forest with Kentucky defeating Florida in the championship.
Mike Erickson, MSU-N women's coach
Erickson, whose team was a bit of a Cinderella story this season, didn't pick too many in his bracket. He picked all of the higher seeded teams to win in the first two-rounds. However, in later rounds, he does have Syracuse beating Wake Forest, Duke beating Kansas and Arizona and Florida beating Texas.
Erickson's Final Four consists of Kentucky, Duke, Florida, Syracuse with Kentucky defeating Florida in the finals.
Shawn Huse, MSU-N men's coach
The slang term for picking the higher seeds in the bracket is the word "chalk." The slang word to describe Huse's bracket is also the word "chalk."
I haven't seen that much chalk since I had to pound erasers for cursing in class at St. Jude's. Huse picked the higher seed to win every game of the tournament. He called it the smart play, but he also called this contest a no-win situation.
He may be right, but nobody expects him to know everything about the teams in the NCAA, just the team's in the Frontier Conference.
Still, Huse has a point. All eight of us are putting our picks up for the readers to see. No one wants to be the one who finishes last especially because all eight of us should know more about college hoops than the average fan.
One thing is for certain, I won't finish in 48th place in this constest.