2006 pool highlights
Poolies are displaying more hubris this year than neo-cons at an arrogance competition, with lots of "just make the check out to me"s accompanying the picks. But much like somebody's poll numbers, scores are down so far this year. After Round 1, pool newcomer Romulus shares the lead at 25 points with newly minted Fulbright Scholar BaughnGirl and past CJ's champions Krusty (2001) and RedStateLiberal (1997); last year, seven hoopsters scored 26 or better in the first round.
This year's field features a tough mix of past champions, pool rookies, and grizzled CJ's journeymen grinders. At the back end of the horse, a formidable clutch of past trailer pullers have their sights set on playing the pool for free. In fact, the last five Pullin' the Trailer winn- er, losers -- BennettA, Kraffty, TruthMaker, Velush, and X-NavyBoy -- are in this year's pool, and it looks like they mean business. BennettA has already laid claim to the cellar with a 16-point statement in the opening round, but new challengers to the porcelain throne like PennyPacker and Smitty are not about to give up on their $10 that easily.
Twenty Hoopsters picked UConn to win it all, meaning the other 30 will be rooting hard for the Huskies' demise.
Two Hoopsters have already gone belly up in the first round. About three years behind the curve, port authority Coppo could only watch in horror as Boeheim's Orangemen ex'Cused themselves from the tourney by coming up lame against an ag' school. Later, it was Kraffty's turn to watch her hopes for the Lodi Cup go down in flames as Cal let one get away against North Carolina State. As we've mentioned in the past, losing your pick to win it all isn't necessarily a fatal blow if somebody like Wichita State, George Mason, or Bradley runs the table and takes home the trophy, but it ain't good either.
Down in the brackets, the secret is out about Bucknell, and CJ's hoopsters were all over that 'dog -- fully 60 percent of hoopsters picked the Bison to stampede the Hogs. Similarly, Queen of the Universe Mynderella, database dude K-Dawg, C-YaFO SpievakJ, and 12 other hoopstirz consulted the CJ's Golden Rules before picking the UW-Milwaukee Panthers to later the Sooners.
Pool newbie Wolverine, code-line exterminator Feklar, technical scribbler WallinJ, and six others figured the Griz' would maul the Wolf Pack. Sweet home Alabaman Tugbucket, crazy-legs P-Funk, and double-daughterin' Gaddis were among seven hoopsta's that done figgur'd the Aggies to spread some manure on Syracuse's parade. Cabin-dwelling artiste GlimmerzGirl, first-timer Shurkin, and super-foxy JennBenn were three of only five hupe-stars patriotic enough pick George Mason. Jersey Boy Zeeman was one of just four Poolies to guess that Northwestern State would go silent spring on the Hawkeyes.
Nobody had more of the shine going for them in the first round than Kraffty. Not only did the Krafft-matic pick ho-hum upsets like Bucknell and Montana, she also called Northwestern State, George Mason, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Texas A&M. In fact the only upset that Kraffty didn't pick in Round 1 was Bradley, who nobody else in the Pool was Brave enough to pick either.
Dubya may be floundering around like a Texas lawyer full of buckshot, but it was a good round for Hoopsters who went with Georges on their picks sheet, as Georgetown, George Mason, and George Washington all won. Kraffty and Krusty were the only Hoopsters to nail this trifecta.
GlimmerzGirl went full rack plus the money ball in the Washington D.C. region, while bullseye-wearing RedStateLiberal hit nothing but net for the Minneapolis quartile.
It just a problem of perception. You may think your bracket is in shambles, but it just seems that way because of how the media has portrayed the outcomes of the games. Things are actually going very, very well for you, but you're caught an intransigent Kafka-esque spyrum* of moral ambiguity and ethical denial that confuses fact with assertion and reality with verbosity. Or, whatever.
For Hoopsters that picked Ohio State, George Washington, or North Carolina to win it all, your teams are not really losers, the press has simply made too big a deal of the fact that they did not score as many points as Georgetown, Duke, or George Mason. In fact, the Buckeyes, Colonials, and Tarheels are actually ahead of the remaining teams in the field, because they now have a few extra days' head start on next year over sucker clubs like UConn, Boston College, and LSU who are still wasting their time with this year.
At this point, CJ's would like to award CrankenFine with our first ever Amalgamated Heckuva Job Award for remaining loyal to his home state of Ohio, staying resolute in his determination to pick teams only from Ohio to win it all, and refusing to reconsider his thus far unsuccessful selection strategy. Dayton, Kent State, Antioch College, and now Ohio State -- you've unflinchingly gone down with them all. Stick to your guns kid, Karl Rove's got big plans for you.
Temporary setbacks (upsets) were generally mild in the brackets for Round 2, with the exception of a couple of incidental existentials. Seventeen cloistered citizens of the neo-utopian vanguard, including new daddy BigDaddy, Seahag wag NashB, and 2004 CJ's champagne TallMarty bulldogged their way to supreme happiness by picking the law students to deadeye Dick Cheney the Buckeyes. Elsewhere along the daisy chain of feelgooditude, disc-diver DamonC, Go To gal MissLobo, and tech stock Schleprock were among seven Poolios who harvested points out of Tennessee's involuntary threshing at the hands of Wichita State.
In all the land, only Kraffty had the vision and courage to renew the Patriot Act for George Mason in Round 2. It may be the land of the free (or then again, maybe not -- see previous sentence), but CJ's was not the home of the Brave in the second round. Not a single Hoopster went for Bradley to make the Sweet Sixteen.
Even the least fortunate of those among us in Round 2 still outscored the theoretical minimum by at least ten points, while those with even better fortune, like Pool virgin Cherry and NashB, came within just six points of perfection.
It's a log jam at the top, with 10 hoopsters within three points of the lead. Riding high on his 13-3 second round, Cherry vaulted himself into second place ahead of BaughnGirl, NashB, and RedStateLiberal, but Titus Romulus heads into Round 3 wearing the mantle of leadership. Long may he reign, but . . .
The third round is usually when the shitake hits the grill. Heading into the Sweet 16, nine hoopies the likes of Florida Blackie, two-pack-a-day Cigs, and NYC power broker Gilbie are carrying negative splits, a trend that often portends great things in the later rounds. Round three often does considerable damage to Final Fours, so look for a lot of movement in the standings after the 16 have been pared to 8.
*Not a real word, but since when does that matter anymore? Just sit back and enjoy the mellifluousnessisity** of it all.
For a minute there, it looked like things were about to get veeeery inteh-westing. But after a flurry of last-minute heartbreakers and bracketmakers in Round 3, the Pool is simply representative of American society at large in the Age of Bush -- a small handful of Haves clustered at the top, a token representation of Want-to-Haves clamoring for crumbs at the gates of the Golden City, and a horde of Have-Nots wondering where it all went wrong.
Playing the role of the Haves, anybody who picked a number one seed other than Duke to win it all. Of the 31 Poolies who still have their pick win it all, 29 picked UConn, Memphis, or Villanova.
Starring as the Want-to-Haves, renegade Gator mavens BennettA and JennBenn, who somehow looked at the same bracket as everybody else, but came up with Florida.
And turning in a frighteningly realistic portrayal of the American taxpaying stiff, everybody else.
Unlike President Bushmill, we're not going to blow smoke up your Abu Ghraib about the state of the Pool. If your pick to win it all is gone from the Pool, so is any chance you have of finishing on the podium.
And that includes the coveted Pullin' the Trailer Award. With a bedrock score of four points in Round 3, Go the Extra Mile Gaddis is closed out on points and has wrapped up last place with a respectably awful 36 points. Good for the Trailer in 2006, but a far cry from Kraffty's record-setting 26 in 2002. They're still talking about that one.
Predictably, nobody figured on George Mason jarring their way through the Washington D.C. region. Down in the ATL, Feklar and Shurkin were the only cats who went with the Bayou Bengals.
Now that the unwashed masses have been sloughed off to the higher tax brackets, those at the top of the heap can start looking to turn on themselves. Thirteen Hoopsters still have three of their Final Four alive, and soothsaying sorcerers BennettA, Cigs, and Feklar are lining up for a Grand Slam.
Defending CJ's champeen PetersonD surged from a tie for eleventh in Round 2 to sole possession of first place with a round-leading 24 points. PetersonD leads the 20-strong UConn contingent heading into the Elite Eight, but don't go countin' your chain link before it's strung PD, BaughnGirl and NashB are both breathing down your neck, and they each still have three of their Final Four in tact. That's nothing compared to fellow UConnite Feklar though, who is seven points off the pace, but packing a full house of Final Fours.
Over in the Memphis contingent, Cigs has a comfortable eight-point lead over BigDaddy and all of his Final Fours. If the Tigers prevail, Cigs will take home the Lodi Cup.
Among the Villanovians, Mynderella is clinging to a two-point lead over MissLobo, but Shurkin is lying in the weeds with three of his Final Four, including an LSU pick that could be the difference-maker if the 'Cats can resurrect the ghost of Gary McLain.
Down Florida way, JennBenn has already salted away the victory, if the Gators run the table.
The team that could have the greatest impact on the outcome of the Pool, besides George Mason, is UCLA. An eclectic mix of Poolies still in the hunt picked UCLA to advance as far as the final game, and if this happens, it will completely scramble the standings.
Elsewhere around the Pool . . .
Despite some pretty good scores in Round 3, DamonC's 19-20-20 is the closest thing to a negative split still going in the Pool.
Perennial rabbit SpievakJ has once again flamed out in crunch time, dropping 19 spots from 6th to 25th place and out of the running.
Sibling rivalry is alive and well in the Pool, with three sets of sibs battling it out. Sassy Scots JennBenn and BennettA are hoping to overwhelm Villanova with some Florida swamp gas. Meanwhile B'nai bros ThinkTank and BigDaddy are holding down the middle of the pack with identical 58s, and subpar sibling schlumps PennyPacker and TruthMaker are choking down trail dust at the back of the pack.
Holy Larranaga Batman, what in the name of Jim Valvano is going on in the CJP?
This year, results in the tourney have yanked Poolies around more than Helen Thomas at a Fox News circle jerk.
The Pool's bipolar stagger through the NCAA tournament continued last weekend when it took a massive James Kirk-like karate chop to the solar plexus. Check that, it was a Kirk triple-chop. All three remaining number-one seeds went down, and with them went the the hopes and dreams of 29 more Hoopsters.
In the first round, scores were more depressed than the minimum wage, falling well short of historical standards. But heading into the Elite Eight, 3 Hoopsters still had a Grand Slam going, and 13 others were holding three of a kind. Flash into the present, and only six Poolies can still get points, including Tigers Taker Shurkin, NYC power merchant but always a Bruin Gilbie, and Krusty, the Wizard of the Wasatch. Only JennBenn and BennettA, both of whom picked Florida, still have a horse in the final race.
But that doesn't mean the Pool is over. UConn's Munson at the hands of George Mason, coupled with losses by Memflushed and Villanovadios, leaves the CJ more confused than Dubya in a dictionary factory.
In fact, three Poolies -- JennBenn, the Pride of Puget Sound NashB, and Gilbie -- have a chance to call the Lodi Cup their own this year, and four others can finish in the money. NashB can't get another point, but did so well in the early rounds that he still finishes in the money in six of the eight possible Final Four scenarios. On the outside looking in is deep-threat TallMarty, who can still pick up some points with a UCLA win on Saturday, but won't be able to crack the medals stand. If JennBenn strikes gold this year, she will join Lumberjack lover WaldenA as the only Hoopsters in CJ's history to achieve the hat trick of at least one first-, second-, and third-place finish.
We've had some technical difficulties with the Amalgamated clean-coal burning mainframes ever since the TruthMaker damaged some of the Volkwagen-sized cooling pumps in a vein-popping apoxiclysm* of blinding fury and infantile passive-regressive-implosive self-actualizing quasi-localized expressive conditionalism** as a result of learning that the sum total of the seeds in the Final Four nearly matches his entire Pool point total.
So that means you better check your brackets closely. We're not talking congressional oversight checking, we're talking trying to get through the airport security station without taking your shoes off and then questioning why it is you have to take your shoes off even though the TSA announced like six months ago that people didn't have to take their shoes off anymore and then getting into a verbal altercation with the TSA personnel about how the whole shoe thing is purely a dog-and-pony show intended to present the illusion of security and that if it was so important to check everybody's shoes for exposives why is it that the TSA also recently announced that people could take up to three lighters with them on the plane and how it was all just part of the larger neoconservative military-industrial conspiracy to-- uh, suffice it to say that your picks sheet should probably undergo the same level of scrutiny as the individual in the aforementioned scenario might expect to endure.
LSU versus George Mason, LSU wins
LSU versus Florida, LSU wins
UCLA versus George Mason, UCLA wins
UCLA versus Florida, UCLA wins
George Mason versus LSU, George Mason wins
George Mason versus UCLA, George Mason wins
Florida versus LSU, Florida wins
Florida versus UCLA, Florida wins
*Not an actual medical term, but, nonetheless, a pretty damn good description of the TruthMaker's literal and figurative condition at the time.