By Brendan Loy
Ken Stern, a USC Trojan and long-time blog reader who lives in Thomaston, Maine, leads the 16th annual Living Room Times Men’s NCAA Pool after the opening weekend, with 193 out of a possible 252 points and a pool-best 12 of the Sweet 16 teams.
Among those twelve is VCU, though Stern actually picked USC to beat the Rams in the “First Four,” and then had the Trojans reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Under the rules, he gets credit for VCU’s run. (More on that later in this post.)
Gonzaga alum Benjamin Sloniker, presently of Moscow, ID, is second with 190 points. Alec Taylor is third with 189. Dane Lindberg — who has Butler winning the national title — Keith DeMonstoy and Jason Rogers are tied for fourth with 183. Full standings here.
(Incidentally, President Barack Obama would have 186 points if he had entered the Living Room Times pool, and indeed, would be winning the pool if the “First Four” picks — which he did not make — didn’t count.)
As for who is mathematically alive to win, the scenario listing is here. Lindberg, presently in 4th place, would win in the largest number of scenarios, 12.6%, presumably because he cleans up in nearly all scenarios in which his national champion pick, Butler, keeps advancing. In all, 82 of the 207 contestants are still alive.
Meanwhile, in the 14th annual LRT Women’s NCAA Pool, there’s a tie for first place between Peter Timbrell of Vernon, CT and Scott Paine of Pennsylvania, each of whom has 124 out of a possible 128 points after a 31-for-32 first round. (Timbrell wrongly picked #11 Dayton over #6 Penn State; Paine failed to predict #11 Gonzaga’s home “upset” of #6 Iowa. Both picked the tourney’s other mild upsets by #9 seeds Purdue, West Virginia and St. John’s, and #10s Marist and Temple.)
Six contestants are tied for third, one game’s worth of points behind Timbrell and Paine, and they include a member of women’s college basketball royalty. Jenna (Auriemma) Stigliano, the daughter of UConn’s coach, has 120 points (30-for-32), as do Becky Loy, Nate Evangelista, Michael Watkins, Lisa Velte and Matt Thomsen. Full standings here.
Finally, in the 7th annual NIT Pool, Jeff Morrison grabbed the lead from Charles Fenwick yesterday when Wichita State beat Fenwick’s predicted champion, Virginia Tech. Morrison has 114 out of a possible 162 points; Fenwick and Allan Lewis are tied for second with 107; and there’s a five-way tie for fourth among Matt Thompsen, Larry Caplin, Victoria Wagner, Tim Wiseman and Michael Greiner, with 104 points each. Full standings here; scenarios here.
Back to the men’s pool, where the new tournament format and pool rules have created an intriguing subplot in regard to Ken Stern’s lead. He is winning thanks, in part, to his pre-First Four prediction of a USC run to the Sweet Sixteen, with VCU filling the role of the Trojans. This very scenario was spelled out a week ago, as a hypothetical, and now it’s come true:
If you submit your bracket “early,” with First Four picks, and then you get a First Four game wrong, and if you have the loser of that game going beyond the Round of 64, you will get credit if the actual winner (the team you didn’t pick in the First Four game) goes as far as you thought the loser would go. In other words, let’s say you have USC beating VCU and then going to the Sweet 16, but in fact VCU beats USC. Your bracket will effectively “change” to a VCU-to-the-Sweet-16 bracket, and you’ll get credit if the Rams win the games you thought the Trojans would win. Thus, you aren’t penalized for entering the pool early, as compared to those who waited until they know who won the VCU-USC game.
In all, of the 189 contestants who submitted their final brackets before the USC-VCU First Four game, 109 picked the Trojans to beat the Rams. Of those 109, 32 picked USC to upset Georgetown in the first round, and thus they get credit for VCU’s win there. Of those 32, nine picked USC to reach the Sweet Sixteen: Stern, Greg Plank, Amy Booth, Terry Corcoran, Robert Carlos, Scott Paine, Chris Evans, Danny Pilz, and Toby, Sasha and Butter Zak-Loy. Again, they get credit for VCU’s run. Carlos, Paine, Evans and Pilz had USC going to the Elite Eight, and will get credit if VCU does so.
One other contestant, Andrew Long, had USC going to the Elite Eight, but chose to change his bracket after the First Four, thus giving away 6 points on the two “First Four” games he got right, and, as it turns out, an additional 11 points (and counting) that he would have gotten if he had stuck with USC/VCU. If Long hadn’t changed his bracket, he’d be tied for ninth place with 179 points right now, with an Elite Eight sleeper still alive in VCU, instead of tied for 66th place with 162 points and Elite Eight pick Purdue already eliminated.
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