With top-seeded Kentucky watching their perfect season hopes go down the drain in the national semifinals at the hands of Wisconsin, the stage was set for someone unexpected to rise to the top of my sixth annual Outback Steakhouse bracket contest. And that is just what happened when Duke held off Wisconsin 68-63 in the title game to give the Blue Devils their fifth NCAA national title.
With the championship game victory, R.J. Bergman (pictured left), a Duke fan and one of my former student workers, claimed the bragging rights and the $20 gift certificate from Outback Steakhouse as he jumped from seventh place to the top spot (1430 points) by 200 points over runner-up Troy Current (1230 points), who had a remarkable streak of consecutive correct picks come to an end with Kentucky’s semifinal loss. Steve Wilging, who would have claimed the top spot and become the first two-time winner in my contest with a Wisconsin win, finished third with 1220 points, while Cindy Warner (1170 points) and Tim Ryan (1130 points) were fourth and fifth respectively.
I actually had a shot to finish second in the contest this year if Wisconsin had won the title as I, along with Steve Wilging and Steve Miller, had correctly picked both Duke and Wisconsin to play for the title. But, alas, I ended up in seventh place when the Blue Devils won.
There were some great intra-contest rivalries that took place this year as for the first time Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch finished higher than Josh Poland from 10TV. In a battle of National League digital media gurus, Lisa Braun of the Cincinnati Reds in her inaugural appearance topped veteran entrant Amanda Rykoff of the Houston Astros. And previous winner and newlywed Patrick Neville got beaten by his bride, Noelle Neville, despite the fact she had Northeastern (NE) and Villanova (VILL) in the finals. Noelle, you get a Bloomin’ Onion just for your creative picks in the finals to match your new last name AND for taking down the champ!
Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s contest and thanks as always to Outback Steakhouse for being such a great sponsor. They donated the $20 grand prize and 20 Bloomin’ Onion cards that I will be dispersing to round winners as well as a few given randomly to names I draw out. Make sure to visit them when possible and send them a tweet to say thanks! Hope to see you all again next year when we all go in search of our One Shining Moment!