2005 pool highlights
So like everybody else, it's Wednesday night and your picks sheet is mostly done. You're just looking for those sleeper picks for your Final Four from among the 3-6 seeds. Hmm, haven't heard much about Syracuse this year -- just like 2002 -- and they're seeded third. Perfect. And, oh, oh, what's this, Kansas is always in the mix and with Roy Heimlich gone, maybe this is their year. Oh yeah you think (and with good reason) that Final Four is looking good, and it's mine, all mine, ha ha ha ha haaaa.
Then the first round happened. Elite Eights are hit. Final Fours are down. Picks to win it all are done.
You have to feel for the poor hoopsters that went with Syracuse and Kansas to win it all, because it really, really blows to lose your pick to win it all in the first round.
On the other hand, HOW 'BOUT THEM CATAMOUNTS!!! HOW 'BOUT THEM BISON!!!
Upsets like those by Vermont, Bucknell, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and UAB are what the first couple of rounds of the NCAA tournament are all about. And this year would have been awesome for college hoops diehards, if CBS had stuck with those games instead insisting on force-feeding us the always compelling 1-16 matchups. To be fair, yes, the 1-16s were a lot more competitive this year, but aren't we going to see enough of Duke and North Carolina and Illinois in the rest of the tournament? Why not show an entire 6-11 or 3-14 once in a while? CBS graciously brought us back for the last couple of minutes and the overtime of the Vermont game as well as the conclusion of the Kansas game, but games like that are about developing drama, when you can feel the underdog starting to believe, when you see the favored team finally realize that they might lose. You just don't get that when you're ping-ponged in and out of a game.
Summoning the power of the force*, Yoda was the only hoopster with wisdom enough to go with the Catamounts, and like the Great Plains circa 1893, there wasn't a bison to be found on anybody's pick sheet. Nine hoopsters, including Humboldt's finest BaughnL, Longhorn suffering Smitty, and Jersey Boy Zeeman took UW-Milwaukee to send Alabama pachyderming. Many others took UAB, Nevada, NC State, Mississippi State, and Iowa State.
Proving the odds are, well, with the odds, seven hoopsters, including CJ's rookies KCarp, MissLobo, and Scanner, went 1600 on their SATs for the Albuquerque region, which did not have a single upset. One-upping them was Yoda, who used his Vermont pick to ace the Austin region. Picks well he does. Call boy SpievakJ tops them all though by picking all three upsets in the very difficult Chicago region en route to puring Chicago and going 15-16 in Chicago and Albuquerque. On the flip side NavyBoy is getting off to a fast start on going down with the ship after turning in a TruthMaker-quality 17.
After nearly running the table, SpievakJ leads the pool, but holy procedural filibuster Batman, it's early and there's always the prickly details of keeping your Queen in the game.** However, much as in the very empirical and objective race for the Division I college football championship, if you're going to lose your pick to win it all, it's good to take that hit right away and then work yourself back into the pool. Just keep in mind, it's only one pick. If something weird happens like Arizona, Gonzaga, Villanova, or Cincinnati wins it all, you're right back in it.
*In anticipation of a congressional subpoena, Amalgamated lawyers are feverishly combing through pool bylaws and US federal gaming statutes to verify the legitimacy of using supernatural, telepathic, and otherworldly communications, machinations, or computations for the purpose of gaining a competitive advantage in prognostication, divination, or imagination.
And then the second round happened.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're out there crying orange and cornflower blue tears all over your tattered bracket wondering where it all went wrong. Well, it started about five years ago when some dumbshits in Florida couldn't figure out how to read a butterfly ballot -- wait a minute, wait a minute, where were we? Right, right, where it all went wrong in the pool.
Breaking with long-standing Amalgamated corporate policy, CJ's is taking a glass half-full position on the pool thus far. It's not that 34 hoopsters have lost at least one of their Final Fours, it's that 8 hoopsters, including Beaver boy AkinS, ever-cognizant AsheW, and CrankenFine the betrothed, are brilliant enough to still have all of theirs. Yes, it's unbelievable but true, CrankenFine not only made it out the weekend with his overall pick still in it, he's packing a full house of Fours. Of course, if Dayton had been an option like it has the last two years . . .
But there's more good news. Blacktop legend FlabbyBoy and golden-throated Johnny Dark have turned in neutral splits (same score or higher in each successive round) for the first two rounds and Zeeman and Michigan man TyrellC have actually posted negative splits (higher scores in each successive round). Wol-ver-ines!!!
In the upsets category, the state of Wisconsin is handing out nothing but hard cheese to the rest of the field, but eight hoopsters got Badger points for Round 2 while four hoopsters made Milwaukee famous. 16 hoopsters pegged Villanova, the easiest dog to catch, but only TyrellC and BaughnL picked the wild dogs of NC St to chase down their domesticated brethren from UConn, and only Pride of the Rust Belt Cigs and BaughnL picked the Mountaineers to have Wake squealing like a pig. Of the EIGHT upsets in Round 2, Zeeman picked five of them, and BaughnL picked the four toughest: West Virginia (2), NC St (2), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (4), and Texas Tech (6). BaughnL, get thyself to the nearest race track immediately!
He's wise, he's green, he's three-feet tall, and he's still completely perfect in the Austin region, give it up for Yoda. Not to be outdone, TyrellC went 8-8 in the Syracuse and Austin brackets. How is that done?
Elsewhere, as might be expected, TyrellC and Zeeman racked up high scores for the round with 26. Yeah, that's right, twenty-freakin'-six. That means they only missed three games in the entire round. Huh? At the other end of the cow, NavyBoy turned in another trailer court performance and is pushing hard for his 15 minutes of infamy.
I think now is an appropriate time to nominate Kelvin Sampson as the heir apparent to Roy Williams for the annual Shrunken Fruit Basket award. This dubious honor goes to Sampson for once again having no balls and taking one of the deepest, most physical, and most athletic teams in the tournament and turning them into the Washington Generals by going with gutless gimmicky defensive schemes, the same schemes that made megastars out of a bunch of Indiana nobodies in the Final Four two years ago. You got to trust your players coach, you can't base your whole game plan around the other team's game plan. Even Marty Schottenheimer always goes down swinging with his game plan.
And speaking of making history, not one, but two of the Golden Rules may have to be amended by the time this tourney is over. The greasy goats from Chapel Hill are looking real good for Roy Williams, and it just could be all number one seeds this year. Who knows how it will play out.
Take just a moment away from muttering over your Albuquerque and Austin brackets to consider:
It's only the third round and already the Dark Lord of the Underdog is starting to close hoopsters out of this contest. This past round saw three hoopsters reach the mathematical limit beyond which they can get no more points, and NavyBoy has officially summited the pinnacle of futility by clinching the Pullin' the Trailer award for overall low score in the contest.
It wasn't all $35 soggy fries and flat soda out there for the CJ's crew though. 15 hoopsters, including 2003 CJ's runner-up Joe Lazy and media filter VelushL, picked Arizona to hogtie the Cowboys. Double-dad Blackie was the only hoopster to figure that Wisconsin would burrow its way into the Elite Eight, and only Iron Mike Cigs knew West Virginia would have the Red Raiders carried out on their shields. Support for Michigan State was spartan -- nobody in the pool saw them coming.
At this stage, nobody has a negative split or even a neutral split, and nobody has their entire Final Four remaining. However, sweetheart of the rodeo Mynderella, database dreamboat K-Dawg, and Campbell's kid Gilbie are among 10 hoopsters with 3 of their Final Four picks still afloat. And for an amazing 11 hoopsters, including former Trailer Award winner BennettA, good-neighbor maker and CJ's 2000 champeen PetersonD, and disc-diving DamonC, both of their final game picks are still breathing.
That's not to say things haven't been getting ugly out there. Scores
in this round ranged from the stellar 20 to the stinky 4, and another
9 hoopsters got curb-kicked from their road to glory when Duke and
OSU got plucked. It's down to Illinois (15), North Carolina (8), Kentucky
(1), and Louisville (1) to see who's going to take home the Lodi Cup
Fading faster than a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker, many of the early leaders took a freefall to mediocrity in this round, while several also-rans who played rope-a-dope through the first couple of rounds catapulted themselves into the mix.
AkinsS Bubka'ed himself from 29th place to 9th overall by burying a trey in the Final Four, as did BennettA who struggled upward from 15th to 3rd. His Dayton-Penn-Toledo-Yellow Springs Polytechnic in the Final Four days apparently over, CrankenFine hoisted himself from unlucky 13 to second banana, and the call of the wild beckoned MissLobo from out of the money to El Numero Uno.
But much like Amalgamated's corporate pricing schemes, for there to be profit, somebody has to get screwed. Enter EvilFunkGenius, who hit a few wrong notes to go from 9th to 29th, and disappearing faster than a homosexual vegetarian at a Bush town hall meeting, KCarp was brusquely escorted back 13 spots and out of the top 10 to 20th place overall.
At this point, we're looking at your basic "haves" and "have-nots" scenario, with 23 of 42 hoopsters having a stake in either Illinois or North Carolina heading into the tourney's penultimate weekend. At the other end of the court, nobody picked Michigan State and only Rick Pitino-wannabe TruthMaker* picked the Cardinals to have a drumstick's chance in hell of conjuring up the arcane mojo or wicked hair product of Pervis Ellison and Denny Crum.
At tip-off, five different hoopsters have a chance to slosh Fetzer's from the Lodi Cup, and nine other hoopsters can score cash of some kind. MissLobo, PetersonD, and the TruthMaker each have two scenarios that make them winners. AkinsS and BennettA round out the possible winners. Both the TruthMaker and BennettA are past winners of the Pullin' the Trailer Award. MissLobo takes the consistency award, sitting pretty to win cash in five of the eight possible scenarios. Of those on the money board, 10 can win CJ's glory and fortune for the first time. Only 2000 CJ's champion PetersonD has hoisting experience; nobody has ever won the CJ's more than once.
To reduce costs and increase an already bloated profit margin, the following scenarios have not been verified by any outside accounting agency. Indentured Amalgamated night comptrollers who received no overtime pay for their work on this project assume sole responsibility for the accuracy of these calculations (yee'd be wise to check yar awn scars matey).
Illinois versus North Carolina, Illinois wins
Illinois versus Michigan State, Illinois wins
Louisville versus North Carolina, Louisville wins
Louisville versus Michigan State, Louisville wins
North Carolina versus Illinois, North Carolina wins
North Carolina versus Louisville, North Carolina wins
Michigan State versus Illinois, Michigan State wins
Michigan State versus Louisville, Michigan State wins
*For the record, the TruthMaker is not a dead ringer for Rick Pitino (that's Pitino on the left). However, he does acknowledge to strictly following Pitino's hygiene, fashion, and healthcare regimens; Amalgamated, its subsidiaries, and the TruthMaker categorically deny reports of a restraining order. Amalgamated has been authorized to confirm that the TruthMaker was recently fitted with the exclusive 2005 Rick Pitino signature series hair plugs**. I think we can all agree, the TruthMaker has never looked better.
**The 2005 Rick Pitino Signature
Series®Hair Restoration and Enhancement System is manufactured
and distributed exclusively for Hair America, a downstream channel
of Industrial Hair and Skin, which is a subsidiary of Chemical Plastique
du Bilge, itself a limited liability partner of Conglomerated Amalgamated,
a division of Amalgamated TruthMaker Enterprises.
Ding-dong the witch is dead. Roy Williams finally has his championship and CJ's hoopster PetersonD was there to wash that monkey off Williams' back with a cooler of icy Gatorade. In a CJ's tournament teeming with historical significance, PetersonD towers as a giant among hoopsters, winning the 2005 CJ's College Basketball Decade. PetersonD is the first CJ's hoopster to ever win the coveted Lodi Cup more than once. The big PD also won the CJ's in 2000.
Rounding out the medal stand, the second coming of Lance Alworth, DamonC, took second place, and Great Lakes DBA-in-waiting K-Dawg used the Tarheels as his primary key to the number three spot. Annnnnd bringing up the rear, it's NavyBoy, whose woeful inadequacy in the brackets is not met with ridicule and condemnation in the CJ's community, but is instead rewarded with the piteous $10 Pullin' the Trailer Award.
In addition to PetersonD's second claim to immortality, there was lots of other history to be had in the CJ's College Basketball Decade. For the first time, CJ's patented highly technical and finely calibrated double-redundant tie-breaker system failed, leaving RobertsonM and Smitty tied for 12th place. This year's third place payout was the highest in CJ's history, and the second place purse was matched only by the panic-driven "alternative investment" craze of the 2002 post-Dot.com bust CJ's.
Before we fold this chapter of CJ's history into the record books, a word or two about the tournament itself are in order. First, yes, the Golden Rules have already been amended. Roy Williams is officially off the schneid and new chokemaster Kelvin Sampson has taken his place in the CJ's crosshairs. CJ's still advises against Kansas to win it all.
For the TruthMaker, Louisville's loss in the Final Four was hard enough to take, but CBS did it's absolute darndest to make Saturday's games completely unwatchable because of all the commercials. They'd come back from commercial, run one play, then go to another commercial. I think CJ's counted at least 713 timeouts in each game. Also unwatchable was the inevitable schmaltz-drenched "Look back at the tourney" from Dick Enberg at halftime of the championship game. Who knew that some freakin' basketball games could make so many memories, and warm so many hearts, and touch so many people (when reading this line, please speak in the most reverential of tones; if you can, a tear or two would also be a nice touch). I guess Jimmy Roberts wasn't available because he was already at Augusta National writing his touching and poignant recap for this weekend's Masters. Finally, conceding the dead mother angle, Bruce Weber deserved to lose the final game just for wearing that hideous orange blazer. Hey, if he wanted to honor Lou Henson, one of the all-time CJ's Coach Hair greats, he should have just worn a bird's nest on his head.
That's it hoopsters. Let's give three huzzahs for PetersonD on way out the exits, and take a couple for yourselves while you're at it (the huzzahs, not the exits).