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2004 pool highlights

Round 1
Round 1
Round 2 Round 2
Sweet 16 Sweet 16
Elite 8 Elite 8
Denouement Denouement

Round 1 Aside from the buzz-killing coverage offered by CBS, with their unending commercial breaks for second-tier, landfill-clogging, boardroom enriching products like Sierra Pist, Infidelity Financial Screwvices, and Cingular telebullshit, and their absolute aversion to showing a close 5-12 in favor of the always competitive 1-16 or 2-15 matchups or to cutting away to show something of the 28 other first round games they decided not to televise in your region, the main thing that stands out about this year's tournament so far is the paucity of upsets. Neither the Atlanta nor the Phoenix brackets had any upsets at all! With only four upsets in the entire round, this year's pool is favoring conservatives more than Joe Scarborough, Ann Coulter, and Antonin Scalia debating Bush social policy on the O'Reilly Factor.

Picking all favorites, a hoopster could've gone 28-32 for the first round! Dr. Krusty to the white courtesy phone please, you've just buried a long-range 29 to take the lead after one round of play. The aspiring physico picked just UAB of the four possible upsets, but stayed the course on most of his picks to get off to a damn good start. He'll need it though as, along with 13 other hoopsters, he picked Stanford to win it all -- always nice to start from the front when you're running with the pack.

It's shaping up to be a highly competitive pool, with hoopsters raining down perfection from all over the bracket. Bug trackin' TyrellC and defending CJ's silver medalist JoeLazy each went 8 for 8 in the Atlanta region, NFL poolie NashB and silkie-smooth swingman ShedwillJ aced the East Rutherford side, and CJ's 2000 Champ PetersonD, pride of the military-industrial complex ThinkTank, Ricardo Tubbs look-alike VanJoqui, and construction consigliere Herold all went full rack plus the money ball in the Phoenix region. Not to be outdone, 2001 CJ's Champ Krusty posted a clean 16 of 16 sweep for both Phoenix and Atlanta in a display of conservative selection that would have made Tom Delay proud.

Of the four upsets to be had, NashB, tree-hugging FrankenFine, ABD and 2001 CJ's bronze medalist Smitty, and e-tradin' AsheW each picked Manhattan and Nevada on Day 1, while NFL poolie Zeeman, ShedwillJ, and defending CJ's bronze medalist JennBenn picked three of the four upsets. CJ rookie CignaM is the one you want laying down your exacta picks for you at Santa Anita though as he was the only hoopster to pick all four upsets.

From the other end of the spectrum, a lot of hoopsters took a flyer on Dayton, but CrankenFine is once again going to have to hope that this year's winning team will be a total wild card like Syracuse was last year. For the second year in a row, CrankenFine picked Dayton to win it all; and for the second year in a row, FrankenFine will spend the rest of the tournament hoping that Vanderbilt, Manhattan, Kansas, and Seton Hall make it to the Final Four. Nobody's out of it yet, but losing your queen in the first move of the match sure don't make things any easier.

Also on the bottom looking up is CJ pool rookie Crystal, who is staking his ground as the early "pulling the trailer" favorite. But lookout Crystal, it ain't that easy to shoot the moon in this game. TruthMaker is pushing hard for a repeat of last year's last place finish and left-handed gun VelushL and mad mixer EvilFunkGenius are also in the hunt. Crystal might have surged to the bottom in this round, but looking ahead, his late round picks are just too good to keep him down.

FrankenFine's plight is a cautionary tale for all CJ hoopsters: you must employ the right balance of Kirk and Spock to do well. You must balance emotion with logic; alma mater with RPI; the thirst for upset glory with overall record and seed; bitter rivalries with cool mascots and team colors. Of course, this fine piece of metaphysiology* is meaningless now that you've already made your picks, but as Steve Bartman is fond of saying, "Wait until next year."

*Yup, you know.

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Round 2
Ah, that's more like it. This round had more surprises than a Bush budget proposal, and much like the future of social security, hoopster brackets are now in total disarray.

It was moving day in the CJ as many hoopsters put up good scores (relative) in the second round to gain ground in the standings, but like Howard Dean's December poll numbers, they may prove illusory at the end of the day**. Many hoopsters are completely closed out on points in at least one bracket, and, in many cases, more than one bracket.

Alas poor Kentucky, Stanford, Mississippi St., and Gonzaga, we hardly knew ye as UAB lit up the Wildcats, 'Bama broke the Cardinal rule, the Musketeers drew a bead on MSU, and the Wolfpack hounded Gonzaga right out of the tourney. Already, 25 hoopsters have lost their pick to win it all, 22 just between Stanford and Kentucky.

But take heart all who dare, if Duke and UConn be smitten by their next foes, all bets are off and just about everybody is going to be back in the hunt. Stay tuned hoopsters, unlike the NBA, every game and every point still counts in the CJ CBI, V9.0. Only TyrellC made it through the first two rounds with all Final Four, so if you've got any FF left, and either of the teams you picked for the final game are still hanging around, you're still alive.

Round 2 posted 7 upsets: 17 hoopsters picked the Illini to fight; 13 had the 'Cuse; 6 went with the X-men; just 2 gloria-fied Vanderbilt; and only Zeeman peered through the looking glass for a glimpse of  Nevada topping Gonzaga. Nobody saw UAB or Alabama coming.

Of the seven upsets, USN (retired) Hackett was this round's underdog top dog, picking three. Though hoopster Hackett proclaims to scoff at "silly" contests such as this, the TruthMaker knows full well the sting of Hackett's rapier wagering. It was April 1983, and a fresh-faced TruthMaker, desiring to parlay his allowance savings into enough cash for a new set of Redline cro-moly BMX handlebars, went looking for a sucker to take N.C. State in an even-money wager on the NCAA final between the Wolfpack and prohibitive favorite Houston, featuring Phi Slamma Jamma. Playing the big-toe-in-the-sand schtick to perfection, Hackett took the $50 bet, and the rest is history.

Swingin' Lumberjack MrNAU and ThinkTank topped the charts in Round 2 with 22 points, enough to propel them both onto the money board. Several hoopsters bottomed out in the round with 8s, and Krusty posted a very solid 20 to keep his top spot for a second straight round.

**Extremely irritating and vapidly overused buzz phrase of the 2004 political season. Listen for it and grind your teeth.

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Sweet 16
Now it's a chess match.

Many hoopsters need to come to grips with the fact that somebody is going to win the CJ's CBI, V9.0, but it ain't gonna be them. There's only so many points left on the board, and with 27 of 39 hoopsters minus their potential 32-point keystone, the number of winning, or even monied, scenarios has withered like the flower of civil liberties under the dark shadow of Rick Santorum.

MrNAU continues to get the job done with consecutive high-score rounds, notching 20 large along with NFL Poolie NashB and Hackett. MrNAU and NashB join CFO SpievakJ as the only hoopsters to score at least 20 points in each of the first three rounds. Not coincidentally, this triumvirate and Hackett find themselves with a penthouse view of the rest of the field.

Ahoy bloodbath! A pitcher's duel, this tourney has seen some high-profile casualties so far. Only six hoopsters have three of their four Final Four picks, and of those six hoopsters, only software scribe FlabbyBoy (OK St), TyrellC (Gtech), and Martys spin-off TallMarty (UConn) still have the services of their pick to win it all. TyrellC is looking particularly good because only he (Gtech, Duke) and JennBenn (UConn, OK St) have both of their Championship Game teams on the board.

For glory to exist, there must also be suffering, and nobody suffered in the Sweet 16 more than ThinkTank. After rocketing to second place in Round 2, ThinkTank took an elbow to the teeth in this round, mustering just eight points and getting closed out of the tourney. Crystal posted another sketchy round and is pushing hard for the elusive wire-to-wire "cellar," but he's getting stiff competition from VelushL who is done for the duration as of Pitt's sayonara. As mentioned earlier, Crystal's picks may prove too good for his own good, or rather, just not not-good-enough to win, er lose. Speaking of losing, five hoopsters are completely closed out of their brackets, and plenty more have been mathematically eliminated from taking home the Lodi Cup***.

Of the three primary upsets in the Sweet 16, of course no hoopsters rolled Tide, but clammy K-Dawg, TruthMaker, and VanJoqui rock-chawk-Jayhawk'ed, and only Hackett and Rose City denizen WallinJ knew that X marked a spot for the Musketeers in the Elite Eight. Not surprisingly, 33 of 39 hoopsters got the Duke points for this round and 31 hoopsters got the UConn points. FrankenFine obviously didn't get the point at all as he and WallinJ were the only hoopsters to get neither the Duke nor the UConn points.

***The 64-ounce plastic tumbler from the 1987 Tractor Pull World  Championships in Lodi, CA that is the coveted CJ's trophy.

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Elite 8
First round picks are fun, because you can really take some chances and go out on a limb for exotic teams like Virginia Commonwealth, Manhattan, or Vermont. In the second round, things are still pretty stress-free unless the #1 seed that you picked to win it all flames out like, ahem, you know who. The Sweet 16 usually sees the majority of hoopsters get Kucinich about things and give up all hope of winning but continue the struggle. Ah, it is the the Elite 8 though that cuts it down to the true champions, and anybody who gets three or more of their Final 4 deserves the spotlight during a prolonged, gyratic* Jock Rock routine.

On that note, let's take a look at a few badasses from the CJ CBI, V9.0. Queen of the Universe, NashB, FlabbyBoy, PetersonD, and TallMarty are ready for the their close ups Mr. DeMille, with each posting three of their four. As mentioned earlier, TyrellC is buzzin' and JennBenn is riding high on the dawg as they both move into the Final 4 with both of their picks for the final game still alive. After 4 rounds, NashB and SpievakJ stand tall as the only hoopsters to score at least 20 points in each round. NashB and Spievak also posted their second consecutive high rounds, and as every hack basketball announcer will tell you during the dreary half-time show when they're pointing out the turnover differential for you in hopes of displaying some keen analytical insight but in reality boring you to tears with rote babble that is insultingly banal and patronizing to even the casual fan, the numbers do tell the story and the story they tell is NashB and SpievakJ lead this sleigh ride.

The cup seeks its own master though, and as NashB and Spievak will soon discover, it has already discarded them.  Five intrepid hoopsters remain eligible to hoist it aloft, and six others can still come home with a second- or third-team All-CJ's CBI, V9.0 award.

Meanwhile, back with the proletariat, 10 more hoopsters were voted off the island after this round, leaving just 24 hoopsters with a chance for points. In related news, a late surge by Crystal quashed his quest for the trailer. In fact, Crystal had more points in this round than in the first round! No, it's official, this year's "Pullin' the Trailer" award goes to VelushL. Huzzah VelushL, for you, this pool is like Amalgamated's Bush-adjusted corporate tax burden -- a free ride.

Amalgamated asked the comptroller at its holistic resource extraction facility outside Elko, Nevada to crunch the numbers and figure out whether Iraq was responsible for Kentucky's loss and also to research the eight remaining pool scenarios. Here's how it all plays out****:

Georgia Tech v. UConn, Georgia Tech wins
1. TyrellC  127 pts
2. NashB 106 pts
3. SpievakJ 104 pts

Georgia Tech v. Duke, Georgia Tech wins
1. TyrellC 143 pts
2. NashB 90 pts
3. JohnnyDark 88 pts
    SpievakJ 88 pts

Oklahoma St v. UConn, Oklahoma St wins
1. FlabbyBoy 126 pts
2. Smitty 120 pts
3. JennBenn 106 pts
    NashB 106 pts

Oklahoma St v. Duke, Oklahoma St wins
1. FlabbyBoy 126 pts
2. Smitty 120 pts
3. PetersonD 97 pts

UConn v. Georgia Tech, UConn wins
1. TallMarty 127 pts
2. JennBenn 122 pts
3. CignaM 113 pts

UConn v. Oklahoma St, UConn wins
1. JennBenn 138 pts
2. TallMarty 127 pts
3. CignaM 113 pts

Duke v. Georgia Tech, Duke wins
1. JohnnyDark 120 pts
2. Brettster 117 pts
3. TruthMaker 116 pts

Duke v. Oklahoma St, Duke wins
1. JohnnyDark 120 pts
2. Brettster 117 pts
3. TruthMaker 116 pts

****You are well advised to review your bracket sheet personally. Star-Spangled Slag, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Conglomerated Amalgamated, a parent company of AmalgaTruth, a holding company for Amalgamated Federated, a division of Amalgamated TruthMaker Enterprises, is currently under investigation by the Northeastern Nevada Comptrollers Union for accounting irregularities involving alleged corporate grants to the Human Fund. Despite its impressive reputation, Amalgamated accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of these numbers at this point in the CJ's CBI, V9.0.

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After 3 weeks, 65 games, and 192 possible CJ's CBI, V9.0 points, the Cheese stands alone, and that cheese is TallMarty. With the possible exceptions of Smitty, MrNAU, SpievakJ, and Queen of the Universe, there is no hoopster more deserving of this year's Lodi Cup than the cool drink of water from Flagstaff. Until this year, TallMarty (and his original band, The Martys) were the Roy Williams of the CJ's Pool, always hanging around, always in it, always dangerous, but never quite able to pull out the overall victory. Well, unlike Roy Williams, TallMarty stopped parting his hair down the middle in the fourth grade and no longer has to wonder what it's like to reach the pinnacle of civilization. TallMarty, you have the floor until March 2005.

The rest of the leader board also rounds out nicely for the Amalgamated propaganda machine. JennBenn becomes the first hoopster in the history of the CJ's Pool to finish in the top three two years in a row, moving up one notch from last year to second place. Even better, JennBenn is not a fan of college hoops, and actually picked UConn because she owns a Siberian Husky and liked the friggin' UConn mascot! So let all who would blame their poor performance on not keeping up during the course of the season take note, "sometimes it's not what you know, but what you know not."*****

And stepping in for the bronze is CJ Pool rookie CignaM. While it's true that to some CignaM's freshman success may smack of those undeserving pinheads on the Price of Right who barely have time to catch their breath after they've come on down before they're up on stage trying to win the 2004 Ford Festiva (actual retail price $7,652) while Dot from Sylmar has been standing there betting $1 more than the person to her left since the beginning of the show. But CignaM earned this one by a single first-round upset pick over Fitz, who made a mad dash at the end but could not break into the money list.

And, of course, the CJ's CBI, V9.0 would not be complete without the Pullin' the Trailer, which goes to VelushL for sportsmanship below and afore the call of duty.

As the sun sets once more on a fortnight and a half of basketball splendor, the underpaid, outsourcing-threatened, increasingly productive corporate drones at Amalgamated TruthMaker Enterprises would like to thank you for your participation in the CJ's College Basketball Initiative, V9.0. Until next year, C(J)-Ya!

*****An original TruthMaker idiom developed by Portabello Sinew Wordsmith Greeting Cards, yes, a division of Amalgamated TruthMaker Enterprises. This phrase is available for party rentals, bulk mailings, and annoying e-mail signatures.

--Amalgamated TruthMaker Enterprises--