Barbara Turner and the UConn women save the state of Connecticut from a very depressing day with an amazing finish. In case you missed it, here’s how it ended:
With nearly all of the favorites still alive, the 9th annual Living Room Times women’s NCAA pool is a wide-open affair; 19 contestants still have a chance of winning, and no one’s odds are better than 13.3%. Scenario info here. Sean Sullivan of Boston, MA has the current lead through 56 games, with the Elite Eight starting on Monday. Complete standings here and after the jump.
So, you may recall that I lost a bet on Thursday to newly crowned pool champion Mike Tran regarding the UCLA-Gonzaga game… and then overslept Friday when I was supposed to pay my debt, resulting in a more severe penalty. The first portion of that penalty will occur in Room 121 just before 8:35 AM tomorrow (i.e., before B.A. — which means I actually have to go to class), and shortly thereafter, I’ll let my blog readers in on the fun. So, in other words, stay tuned.
Mike Tran, a member of the UCLA Class of 2004 and a second-year law student at Notre Dame, clinched the 11th annual Living Room Times men’s NCAA basketball pool Sunday when #3-seed Florida defeated #1-seed Villanova, 75-62.
Tran correctly predicted three of the Final Four teams, and seven of the Elite Eight. His only mistake was failing to predict George Mason’s Cinderella run — and the Patriots’ win Sunday actually helped him, as he had UConn losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight, so he would have lost ground on the field in the event of a Husky win. Here’s a look at Tran’s bracket.
Tran is the fourth contestant in Living Room Times history to clinch the men’s pool during the Elite Eight. But Tran’s accomplishment is all the more remarkable because it occurred in a pool with a record 218 contestants, meaning a greater diversity of picks to compete against. Lou Ruggiero in 1996, Liz Acey in 1997, and Justin Vale in 2003 clinched the pool in the Elite Eight over fields of 17, 24 and 43 contestants, respectively — three of the five smallest fields in the 10-year history of Times men’s pools.
Now, with his 217 competitors in this year’s pool mathematically eliminated, Tran will take aim at history. If UCLA wins the championship, he would break the record for largest margin of victory in any Times pool — currently 47 points, set by Vale in the 2003 men’s pool. A title-game victory by UCLA over George Mason would give Tran a 52-point victory; UCLA over Florida would give him a remarkable 72-point margin. If Florida beats UCLA in the title game, Tran would tie Vale’s record with a 47-point win.
In addition, if UCLA beats Florida in the title game, Tran would finish with 381 points, shattering the all-time men’s pool points record of 362, set last year by fellow Notre Dame 2L Brian Kiolbasa. If UCLA beats George Mason, Tran would have 361 points; if Florida beats UCLA, he would have 356 points. In either event, that would be the second-highest total ever in a men’s pool, beating Lou Ruggiero’s 1996 mark of 354. (Points record info here.)
By following in Kiolbasa’s footsteps, Tran becomes the second consecutive member of the Notre Dame Law School Class of 2007 to win the men’s pool. Domers have been considerably more successful than Trojans in this regard; no USC-affiliated contestant has yet won any Times pool, though they’ve been trying since 2000. (Several are still mathematically alive in this year’s women’s pool.)
Tran’s picks have gotten better as the tournament has progressed. He was tied for 97th after going 11-for-16 on the tournament’s first day, and tied for 79th after an identical second-day record brought him to 22-for-32 in the first round. But a 7-for-8 third day lifted him into a tie for 26th, and he had sole possession of eighth place after a 6-for-8 fourth day brought him to 13-for-16 in the second round. He took the lead when LSU shocked Duke in the first game of the Sweet Sixteen, and never relinquished it.
Tran was the only player in the pool to pick seven of the Elite Eight teams, and he was the only player to pick three of the Final Four teams. Only 5 contestants managed to get six Elite Eight teams right, and only 11 picked two of the Final Four.
Tran currently has 316 points out of a maximum possible 412. (The pool is scored on a 5-7-10-15-20-25 basis.)
Ben Eng is second with 297; Andrew Long is third with 289. Eng moved ahead of Long with Florida’s win, which he predicted. Long will finish second if UCLA beats LSU. Eng will finish second if LSU beats UCLA, dropping Long either to his second consecutive third-place finish — if LSU loses in the title game — or to a fourth-place finish, if LSU wins the title (lifting Matt Wiser into third place).
Logan Pugh is currently fourth with 272 points, followed by Drew Harrison with 268 and Matt Scarborough and David Kreutz tied for sixth with 267. Harrison and Scarborough predicted Florida’s win. Pugh and Kreutz were two of the last three contestants to be mathematically eliminated, along with Matt Wiser (17th place).
David’s brother Andrew Kreutz is eighth with 264 points, making the Kreutz family the most successful in this year’s pool. Rounding out the top ten are Kirby Bullard with 262 and Adam DeGuire with 260.
The only contestant to pick George Mason’s win is Marc LaPlante. He also picked Florida, going 2-for-2 on a day when 199 of the 218 pool contestants (91.2%) went 0-for-2. LaPlante was tied for 187th place this morning; he is now tied for 96th.
Complete standings here and after the jump.
Dane Lindberg, D.C.-area resident, in a phone message just now: “You know what really sucks? I thought about taking Mason in your pool, just to be petulant.” (Instead, Dane didn’t enter the pool at all. You can’t win if you don’t play!)
David Gonzalez, one of the estimated 500,000 protesters in Los Angeles, responding to the argument that immigration laws should be tightened for national-security reasons: “When did you ever see a Mexican blow up the World Trade Center? Who do you think built the World Trade Center?” Heh.
Florida leads Villanova at hafltime, 35-30. If the Gators hold on, UCLA alum and Notre Dame 2L Mike Tran will clinch the 11th annual Living Room Times men’s NCAA pool.
If Villanova wins, Matt Wiser will win the pool if LSU wins the championship; David Kreutz will win if LSU is the runner-up; and Logan Pugh will win if Villanova beats UCLA in the title game. But they’ll all be mathematically eliminated if Florida wins.
Andrew Long and Ben Eng were eliminated when George Mason stunned UConn. Long’s elimination leaves Kreutz, a University of Washington grad who attended USC for a year, as the last USC-affiliated contestant with a chance to break the “Trojan curse” in this year’s men’s pool. (Several Trojans are still alive in the women’s pool.) No USC student, former student, or alum has ever won a Living Room Times pool.
P.S. In other news, congrats to Marc LaPlante, the only contestant out of 218 who picked George Mason to reach the Final Four. (Side note: he also picked Florida.) The Patriots’ win catapulted him from 187th place to 151st.
UConn misses the potential game-winning three at the buzzer, and the #11 seed, George Mason — out of the Colonial Athletic Conference — is going to the Final Four!!!
They tie LSU ‘86 as the lowest seed ever to make the Final Four… and they’re the first true mid-major to qualify since 1979, when Larry Bird led Indiana State out of the Missouri Valley Conference and Penn qualified out of the Ivy League. That was back when only 40 teams made the NCAAs.
Remember the pundits who were saying “this could be the year” that all four #1 seeds might make the Final Four? HA! Villanova had better beat Florida, or else none of the #1 seeds will make it! In a shameless I-told-you-so gesture, I refer you to my critique of Gregg Doyel’s prediction that upsets would be scarce in 2006:
I really find this amusing. Every year, basketball pundits are convinced that this will be the year when all the high seeds avoid those pesky early-round upsets. Every year, the TV guys confidently roll out their Final Four picks, laden almost exclusively with #1 and #2 seeds, and the occasional #3 thrown in as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“sleeper.Ã¢â‚¬? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure these guys have been watching the same NCAA Tournament that I have over the past decade… [I then proceeded to demonstrate the inherent unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament, and then concluded:] Is there any reason to believe this year will be different? On the contrary, the numbers suggest this tournament could be crazier than ever.
In fairness, Doyel’s column anticipates that teams like LSU and UCLA might make runs; his point was that first-round upsets wouldn’t happen this year. But that would rule out George Mason, now wouldn’t it? My point here isn’t really to criticize Doyel, though. My point is to criticize a broader phenomenon: the tendency of pundits to be unjustifiably overconfident in the top seeds every damn year. As the song says:
Mine eyes have the glory of a bracket freshly made
And prognosticators certain that the seeds will be obeyed
But like clockwork, underdogs emerge and favorites are waylaid
The Madness marches on!
Glory, glory, Cinderella!
Glory, glory, Cinderella!
Glory, glory, Cinderella!
The Madness marches on!
And now I’ll make another bold prediction: the pundits will learn nothing from this experience. Next year, four #1 seeds will again be anointed, and the pundits will again conclude that they are nigh unbeatable, except perhaps by a scrappy underdog #2 seed, or maybe a “sleeper” #3 seed. Dickie V will put Duke, UConn, North Carolina and some other Top 3 seed in the Final Four. The other pundits will make very similar predictions. And they will all be bizarrely confident in these picks.
The NCAA Tournament rocks. :)
P.S. Not that I, or virtually anyone else, picked George Mason. That’s not the point. What I don’t understand is why so many pundits seem not to have learned the all-important lesson: expect the unexpected. Make your picks, guys, but don’t say things like, “I don’t know if anyone can beat Duke/UConn/Texas/UNC/etc.” Someone always beats at least a few of those “unbeatable” teams. Every year! It’s not surprising anymore. It’s just March Madness.
P.P.S. A fun flashback:
With the NCAA selection show exactly 100 hours away, the most intriguing question right now Ã¢â‚¬â€ supplanting the whole Missouri Valley vs. power conferences debate Ã¢â‚¬â€ is what the selection committee will decide to do with George Mason.
Heading into the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, the Patriots, regular-season co-champs in the CAA, were widely considered a Ã¢â‚¬Å“lockÃ¢â‚¬? to receive an at-large bid, if they needed it, to the NCAAs. … Suddenly, everybody and his brother is suggesting that the combination of GMUÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s semifinal loss and SkinnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one-game suspension might cause the committee to look elsewhere to fill that at-large spot. …
Needless to say, SkinnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s action was very unsportsmanlike, but the whole team should not be punished so harshly for one playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mistake (for which he has apologized). Suspending him is clearly the right decision, but effectively Ã¢â‚¬Å“suspendingÃ¢â‚¬? the team from the tournament would not be. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even think MasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seed should be reduced, considering itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only a one-game suspension. Reducing a teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seed because of a star playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s season-ending injury is one thing, but doing so because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to miss one game? Would UConnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seed be lowered if the committee knew that Rudy Gay was going to miss one game Ã¢â‚¬â€ but only one Ã¢â‚¬â€ due to injury? Would Gonzaga fall from a #2 to a #3 or #4 if Adam Morrison were suspended for one game under a new NCAA policy against ridiculous facial hair? I think not. So, how can they penalize George Mason on the same basis?
Granted, as a team that would likely be in the #10-12 seed range, George Mason is less likely than UConn or Gonzaga to reach the second round, especially without Skinn. For the Patriots, it is statistically more likely to be a one-game tournament. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still a blatantly unfair double-standard to treat them differently just because they would have a lower seed. I believe that all NCAA teams should be judged on the basis that they are participating in a six-game tournament, and seeded accordingly. The committee should not assume, for seeding or selection purposes, that any team will be one-and-done, no matter what the percentages might say.
Looks like I was far more right than I realized! :)
Continued from previous post…
That buzzer-beater by UConn was every bit as dramatic as Sparks’s game-tying three-pointer for Kentucky against Michigan State in last year’s Elite Eight. Husky fans the ultimate ending will be better than it was for Kentucky.
Anyway, UConn 74, George Mason 74, start of overtime.
UPDATE: 78-78, 3:15 to go in OT.
UPDATE 2: Mason by 4, 82-78, with 2:00 to go!
UPDATE 3: Now 84-80 Patriots, 1:01 left. UConn ball, Calhoun calls timeout.
Mason can’t miss… they’re shooting 4-for-4 from the field in overtime.
UPDATE 4: Mason tried to pull a Gonzaga there, but UConn bailed them out (again) with a foul. Patriots lead, 86-81 with 25.4 seconds left!
UPDATE 5: Another HUGE three by the Huskies, and it’s a 2-point game with 7.1 seconds left! Mason ball, though. So basically, this is exactly where we were at the end of regulation. Can they hit the free throws this time? (This time they’re in the double-bonus, though.)
FINAL UPDATE: They missed both free throws, but UConn missed the potential game-winning three-pointer and George Mason wins!
After trailing 14-6 and 20-13, #11-seed George Mason briefly took a 29-28 lead over #1-seed UConn — but then the Huskies went on a 15-2 run and threatened to put the game away. An old-fashioned three-point play with 0.8 seconds left, though, kept Mason within single digits, and it’s 43-34 at halftime. The biggest problem for the Patriots is their shooting percentage: 39.3%, versus 55.2% for the Huskies. The Huskies actually did have a brief cold spell in the middle of the half (I think they missed seven straight shots, which just tells you how well they’re shooting otherwise), but Mason committed the cardinal sin, failing to take advantage of that opportunity. They should have taken a substantial lead in there, but kept missing their shots. Still, they’re within nine points of the #1 team in the land at the half. If the shooting percentages even out a bit, and the two teams otherwise keep playing the way they have been, Mason has a legitimate shot of delighting the “home” crowd by becoming the first true mid-major to reach the Final Four since 1979.
UPDATE: George Mason leads, 69-65 with 3:10 to go!
P.S. If the Patriots actually win, Billy Packer and Jim Nantz will have to cover their next game! Oh, that’d be sweet! :)
P.P.S. You think Florida and Villanova fans are rooting for the Patriots right now? Heh. Of course, so were North Carolina fans… and Wichita State fans… and UConn fans…
UPDATE 2: UConn misses two free throws, then bails Mason out by fouling them with one on the shot clock, then tips in Mason’s shot, then turns the ball over! The Huskies are falling apart! Mason by 4, 1:02 left!
UPDATE 3: George Mason by 2, with the ball, 17.6 seconds left!
The entire state of Connecticut is having a heart attack right now.
UPDATE 4: The Patriots are 7.9 seconds from the Final Four! They have the ball, and a 2-point lead… UConn needs a steal or an immediate foul. If Mason hits two FTs, the game is almost over…
UPDATE 5: OVERTIME!!! Tony Skinn misses the front end, and UConn gets a layup at the buzzer to tie the game!! The layup ALMOST missed… it hung on the rim for several seconds with no time on the clcok. Did I mention the entire state of Connecticut is having a heart attack??
FINAL UPDATE: Coverage continued in new post above.
Indy Racing League driver Paul Dana, a member of the racing team co-owned by David Letterman, died after a horrific crash during the warmup for the Toyota Indy 300, the season’s first race, in Florida today. The race will start as scheduled, but Dana’s teammates, Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice, will not race.
If #3 Florida upsets #1 Villanova and #11 George Mason stuns #1 UConn on Sunday, Mike Tran will clinch the 11th annual Living Room Times NCAA men’s pool. It would be the first time the Times men’s pool championship was decided before the Final Four since 2003, and only the second time since 1997.
But if one or both of the favorites win, between three and five contestants will remain mathematically alive heading into the Final Four. After the jump are the various scenarios, which we can now chart all the way down to the very end of the tournament.
Victoria Lopez, a.k.a. “Vicki from NJ,” moved ahead of former co-leaders Sean Sullivan and 2003 champion Rick Boeckler and took the lead in the 9th annual Living Room Times women’s NCAA pool Saturday with a 3-for-4 day.
Lopez has 268 points out of a maximum possible 312 thus far, midway through the Sweet Sixteen. Sullivan and Boeckler are tied for second with 260 points apiece. Complete standings here and after the jump.
Lopez, Sullivan and Boeckler are 3 of the 31 contestants who are still mathematically alive to win the pool. Scenario info here.
The Stanford women’s basketball team — which, as I noted yesterday, misses the Tree — advanced to the Elite Eight with an upset of Oklahoma on Saturday. This is great news, because it extends the opportunity for SportsCenter anchors and pun-happy newspaper columnists everywhere to keep talking about the Tree. :) For instance, AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron reports:
Gone, but not forgotten, the tree was courtside in spirit Saturday for Stanford’s 88-74 victory over Oklahoma in the semifinals of the San Antonio Regional.
Nearly every member of the band was adorned with some sort of shrubbery. There were twigs of various shapes and sizes taped to hats, backs and arms. Several folks used thick tape to fashion trees on their backs. (Most had the zigzag look of the Christmas variety.)
After the game, long after both teams and most fans were gone, the band played on, chanting, “Just three more wins!”
True. But “Three for the Tree!” sure has better ring to it.
Fox Sports’s Kevin Hench must have missed the code-of-silence memo — you know, the one that says sportswriters aren’t supposed to call it like they see it when a game is decided by poor officiating — because he is blunt, brutal, and absolutely, 100% correct in pointing out that both Boston College and Washington “were left with the sour taste of losing because of bad officiating” on Thursday. Thank God someone outside of the state of Washington and fan message boards has the courage to say it!