The $5,000,000 Winner

By Luke Addison, Concessions Assistant

The most wonderful time of the year has returned once again in full force. Spring is here, with a 80 degrees and sunny forecast for Wednesday.  Spring training is in full swing, where optimism reigns supreme and my Indians are still mathematically alive for the playoffs.  Saturday will bring me together with all other Irish-for-a-day to give thanks to Saint Patrick with green beer.  Yet, roaring head and shoulders above all the rest, comes the beautiful phenomenon that is March Madness.

We all fill out the brackets.  We all stand around the water cooler and discuss which team is a lock to pull off the 12-5 upset, why team x made the dance when team y was left out (when really neither has a shot at winning it all), our super secret sleepers, and to laugh at the non-basketball fan in sales who is making their picks based solely on team colors and mascots (yet will beat us all handily).   Businesses will lose millions of dollars of productivity from its workers as everyone constantly tracks the accuracy of their $5 bracket.

And yet, it is all worth it.  To chase the dream of the perfect bracket is a fire that burns inside millions of Americans.  This year, Yahoo is giving $5,000,000 to the person who can correctly predict all 63 games (play-ins do not count).  I’ll save you the hours of research and agonizing decision-making because I already have crafted the winner.  Yes, it’s true.  I have yet to decide how to spend my newfound riches, but I am certain it will make life as an intern easier.

Without further ado:  the picks

Round of 64: The first 2 days of the tournament always provide some of the greatest and most memorable moments in sports.  This year’s Cinderallas (seeded 10 and lower) come in all shapes and sizes.  On Thursday, Davidson gets the ball rolling with a bracket busting upset of Big East tournament champion Louisville.  Somewhere, Steph Curry is smiling through all of his ankle pain.   Later that afternoon, Long Beach State nails the inevitable 12-5 upset over New Mexico.  Fear the Beach.  A legend from my home area, Bob Huggins, leads his Mountaineers to a mini upset over 7th seeded Gonzaga.  As that game ends, viewers are flipped over just in time to witness the ending to the stunning upset South Dakota State pulls on Baylor.  Baylor’s And-1 style is its downfall in its loss to the 27-win Jackrabbits, who take home the annual “Nobody Has Ever Heard of Our School Before We Won This Game” trophy.  Friday wastes no time picking up the slack as #11 NC State takes down San Diego State.  Now living in North Carolina and seeing some Wolfpack fans around the park, there’s no doubt its upset city in the day’s first game.  Not to be outdone, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies oust ACC tournament champ Florida State.  One of my best friends back home I call Bonnie sometimes and she will be quite proud of the effort her boys give against the ‘Noles. #13 Ohio wins that evening to represent the MAC and #10 Purdue wins to keep my dad happy. 

Round of 32:  A few of upsets dot round 2 (I refuse to call the play-in games round 1).  Things stay calm in the East and Midwest, but heat up in South as #5 Wichita State knocks off #4 Indiana.  I went back and forth forever on the Duke-Notre Dame game, but after having my fanhood questioned I had to move the Blue Devils on.  (Notre Dame also receives no benefit of the doubt for continually thinking its average football program is above playing in the Big Ten or any other conference.) The West sees #6 Murray State continue its winning ways against #3 Marquette.  You can knock them for having a soft schedule, but there is something to say about having only one loss this late in the year. 

Sweet 16:  A couple of 6 seeds make the headlines with their bids into the quarterfinals.  UNLV avenges its loss in the 1991 final four by knocking off the Dukies.  I would love to have my beloved Blue Devils all the way to the final line but the combination of weak perimeter defense combined with weaker post offense and a questionable Ryan Kelly dooms them against a UNLV team featuring Mike Moser who is about to become a household name.  Ditto for Long Beach’s Casper Ware, whose darling run ends in a heartbreaker to Michigan State.  The big one though comes in the East where Cincinnati takes the battle of Ohio from Ohio State.  Yancy Gates outplays the overrated Jared Sullinger and William Buford has just enough of an off night to propel my sister’s alma mater into the Elite Eight.

Elite 8: Kentucky is too talented for UNLV; Mizzou’s perimeter talent overwhelms Michigan State; Syracuse avenges its loss to Cincinnati in the Big East Tourny; and Kansas knocks off UNC in the Roy Williams Invitational.

Final Four:  Missouri’s senior depth overcomes Kentucky’s freshman talent to send the Tigers to their first final.  Kansas also takes out Syracuse. The highlight of Selection Sunday was watching the reaction of the Kansas players feeling snubbed about their number two seed and mean mugging the camera during their air time.  Loved every second of it.  That’s my kind of team.

Championship:  Kansas 78, Missouri 73 It’s unclear if these two teams will keep the rivalry going once Mizzou bolts for the SEC, so this will have to do for maybe the final chapter in one of the best rivalries in college basketball. It just doesn’t feel right having Missouri as champion, so round 3 of the Border War goes to the Kansas.

Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, KU.  If you need to borrow any money, let me know.

Luke is beginning his first year with the Hickory Crawdads as a concessions assistant.  Previously, Luke has worked in baseball with the Akron Aeros, the Cleveland Indians Double A – Affiliate.  He was born and raised in Uhrichsville, OH and attended Kent State University where he earned a degree in Sports Administration and a minor in Business.  Luke has simple tastes, enjoying warm weather, funny jokes, and dancing.

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