By Brendan Loy
Tim Donahue and Zach Bloxham went 4-for-4 in predicting the men’s Final Four of #1 Kentucky, #2 Kansas, #2 Ohio State and #4 Louisville — the first time anyone has picked a perfect Final Four in a Living Room Times men’s pool since 2009, when Matt Scarborough did it. The feat helped Donahue maintain his lead in the pool, and if the overwhelmingly favored Wildcats win the national championship, Donahue will earn “eternal glory” as champion of the 17th annual LRT men’s NCAA pool.
But that would presumably be a bitter consolation prize for Donahue, a self-described “big-time Louisville Cardinal fan” who just returned from Phoenix, where he and his youngest daughter watched the Cardinals reach the Final Four. He has come this far in the LRT pool thanks in part to his faith in Rick Pitino’s team, which is the Final Four’s biggest surprise. But now his pool fortunes depend on archrival Kentucky (which most of Donahue’s family roots for) beating Louisville and winning the national title.
Bloxham, for his part, can finish no higher than third. He’s in seventh place now, but he is too far behind leader Donahue to catch up, even if he gains points from their differing picks for national runner-up (Donahue says Kansas; Bloxham, Ohio State); and he cannot gain any points on sixth-place Michael Holtsberg because their picks are identical from this point forward.
Three others, though, are still alive to win the pool. Chris Palmer, currently in second place, will win the pool if Ohio State wins the title, or loses the championship game to Louisville. Yvette Webster, currently third, will win if Louisville plays Kansas in the title game, regardless of the outcome. (She predicted Kansas over Louisville for the title.) And Abby Newbold, currently fourth, will win if Kansas beats Kentucky for the championship.
That means the pool will go down to the wire if Kentucky reaches the title game, but if Louisville upsets the Wildcats in the first national semifinal, the pool champion will be determined by the second semifinal between Kansas (Webster) and Ohio State (Palmer).
A bit of background on each of the “Final Four” in the pool:
• Tim Donahue, of Elizabethtown, KY, found the Living Room Times pools last year via a Facebook search, and entered again this year when I invited all of last year’s participants. He said he “just enjoyed the tone and friendliness of your pool, so wanted to give it a try again.”
• Chris Palmer, of Long Valley, NJ, is a Vermont alum, a fellow Mid-Majority reader and owner of two Ballys, and a friend of mine on Twitter, where he goes by @chrispalm.
• Yvette Webster, of Round Hill, VA, found the pools via Rachel Wetherill, a long-time blog reader and pool contestant. Webster entered using the “mascot bracket,” proclaiming “I do not know a thing about basketball.”
• Abby Newbold, of Boston, MA, is a Villanova alum and the wife of my high-school classmate and long-time pool contestant Brian Newbold.
Meanwhile, in the women’s pool, with a “chalky” Elite Eight set — all four #1 and #2 seeds made it — the pool remains very competitive, with 17 of 78 contestants still alive to win.
The current leader is Randy Styles, with 281 points; he has a Final Four of all #1 seeds, with Baylor beating UConn for the title. Ken Stern is presently second, just four points back, but with an identical prediction to Styles’s, he cannot win.
Michael Holtsberg, the 2009 women’s pool champ, is presently third with 272 points, and can still win because he has Notre Dame, instead of UConn, losing to Baylor.
Cam McLachlan and Joe Hiegel are tied for fourth with 269 points, and have identical picks to Styles except that Hiegel has Notre Dame beating Baylor for the title, while McLachlan has the Irish losing to Maryland in the Elite Eight tomorrow.
Becky Loy and Kevin Curran are tied for sixth with 268. Becky’s picks are identical to Hiegel’s, except she has Kentucky upsetting UConn on Tuesday. Curran cannot win, as his surprise Final Four pick, St. John’s, was already eliminated, and his picks are otherwise identical to Styles’s.
Also still mathematically alive to win: Michael Walsh, Gary Kirby, Amy Booth, Kevin Hauschulz, Rick Boeckler, Ken Wagner, Yvette Webster (the only contestant still alive to win both the men’s and women’s pools), David Kreutz, Mike Tran, Diane Krause, Josh Rubin and Bonnie Stone.
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