Tag Archives: College Basketball

March Madness Continues

Well, the first week of the annual NCAA March Madness tournament is behind us and for the eighth straight year the kind folks at Outback Steakhouse agreed to sponsor my annual bracket contest.  So, last week, 50 of my friends and I logged our brackets in on ESPN.com’s site and waited for the action to unfold.

marchmadnessEarly on, Cindy Warner took the lead as she was the last person in the group to have a perfect bracket with 10 straight correct picks.  Then, she missed two of the final six games to stand in second place after day one with a stellar 14-of-16 correct.

Meanwhile, Rodney Yoder, Chris Runion and Trevor Gaffney each finished the first day only missing one game to take the lead with 150 points.  All three of them along with Cindy will receive one of the 20 free Bloomin’ Onion cards that Outback so graciously donated to the contest.

On day two, Justin Ross correctly picked 15 of the 16 games to jump into a tie for first place with Trevor and Rodney as they each finished the round of 64 with 28 of 32 games picked correctly for 280 points.  Greg Sergio was also tied for first place as he was consistent going 14-for-16 on both of the first two days.  Justin and Greg also earned a free Bloomin’ Onion for their efforts.

The round of 32 was were the field started to separate thanks in large part to losses by defending champion Villanova and no. 2 seeds Duke and Louisville as 20 of the 51 entrants in my contest lost their predicted national champion, myself included.

Brad Graley avoided the upset carnage, though as he correctly picked 14 of the 16 winners in the round to move into a first place tie with Trevor and Noelle Neville as the three of them each currently have 520 points.  And all three of them have a different predicted national champion.  Brad and Noelle will each receive a free Bloomin’ Onion as will Alex Connell, who is next on the leaderboard with 510 points although his bracket was busted with the loss of Duke.

The action heats up again tonight and the overall prize of the $20 voucher to Outback and the bragging rights that go with it are still up for grabs.  Good luck!


And The Winner Is…

This year’s March Madness contest ended with a bang as Villanova hit a buzzer-beater to down the only remaining No. 1 seed North Carolina to claim the NCAA title 77-74.

juan poonOf the 51 people who entered my seventh annual bracket contest sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, only Adam Jackman correctly predicted that Villanova would win it all.  Unfortunately for Adam, his picks in the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight kept him from claiming the overall title in this year’s contest as he came up 40 points short of the top spot by finishing with 1100 points.

Congratulations to Juan Poon (left) for winning this year’s title and along with it the coveted $20 gift certificate from Outback.  Juan was the only person in the contest to correctly have picked both teams in the championship game and his early success helped to overcome the fact that his beloved Tarheels did not captured the trophy as he had predicted.  He finished with 1140 points.

Michael MacEachern, who was at or near the top in every round, finished third with 1040 points, while Hannah Miller was also consistent and finished fourth with 980 points.  Trevor Gaffney, who made a late run, rounded out the top five finishers with 970 points.

In addition to everyone in the top five and the previous winners from the first weekend of action, eight other people also scored a free Bloomin’ Onion from my friends at Outback and I’ll be mailing those out to the lucky recipients.  In the media division, Joe Rinehart of WNZR (820 points) just edged out Amanda Rykoff (800 points) of the Houston Astros and former 10TV weatherman Josh Poland (800 points).  Meanwhile, Holly Zachariah and Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch ended up deadlocked in the battle for workplace bragging rights.  Defending champion R.J. Bergman finished in 47th place in a rebuilding year as he made an early exit just like his favorite team, Duke.  And finally, after thoroughly beating her husband and former contest winnter, Patrick Neville a year ago with Northeastern (NE) and Villanova (VILL) in the finals a year ago, Noelle Neville finished dead last.  If she would have only picked Villanova this year.  🙂

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.  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!

First Week in the Books

The first week of the NCAA Tournament is in the books and and there was definitely madness this March with upsets and buzzer beaters.  Of the 51 entries in this year’s contest, 23 people have already had their champion eliminated.  Michigan State was the biggest early exit as Sparty got an early spring break trip with a first round loss.

IMG_7636Speaking of Michigan State, only three entries (James Mummert, Michael MacEachern, and Noelle Neville) were still perfect through the first seven games before the Spartans’ lose ended that run.  James Mummert, Michael MacEachern, Mark Womack, Patrick Neville, and Cindy Warner finished the first day all tied for first place by getting 14 of the first 16 picks correct.  James snags the first Bloomin’ Onion certificate courtesy of our friends from Outback as I drew his name out to break the tie for the best day, while Noelle and Patrick will share one.

The second day saw Wade Foley pick 12 of the 16 winners correctly while Mark Womack and Cindy Warner each picked 11 right as that trio were each tied for first place with 25 of the first 32 picks correct.  Wade snagged the Bloomin’ Onion certificate for the best day, while Mark also gets one as I drew his name between he and Cindy since they both were in first for the second straight day.

The third day saw Andy Francis get seven of the eight games right as he moved into a first-place tie with Cindy Warner, who got six of the eight games right.  Andy claims the Bloomin’ Onion for the best day, while Cindy also gets one for her third straight day occupying first place.

Michael MacEachern took over the top spot in the contest on the fourth day as he correctly picked six of the eight winners to stand at 480 points through the first four days of games.  He picks up the Bloomin’ Onion certificate as he ended up going 12 for 16 in the second round.  Andy Francis is a close second with 470 points after also going 12 for 16, while Hannah Miller stands in third place with 460 points.  Brad Graley won the drawing for the day as he also went 12 for 16 along with Trevor Gaffney.

The Sweet Sixteen is now under way tonight and it will be interesting to see what happens next.  Stay tuned!


March Madness is Back!

It’s that time of year once again for my annual men’s college basketball March Madness bracket contest!  This marks the seventh straight year of the contest and once again the good people of Outback Steakhouse have agreed to be the title sponsor with the coveted Outback gift certificate and bragging rights up for grabs for the winner.  Last year, R.J. Bergman beat out 67 other people to win the top prize as he jumped from seventh place to the top spot when Duke claimed the title and cut down the nets.

March Madness is a great time of year for college hoops junkies and even the casual fan. One of the best ways to follow the action is to fill out a bracket and then root for your picks to advance. Go the safe route and pick all the higher seeds or be the one person to take an underdog Cinderella team all the way to the big dance. Either way, it’s lots of fun to participate and bragging rights as well as some good food in this case are up for grabs.

That’s where my contest comes in. For the seventh straight year, my contest is free to enter so there is no excuse not to get on board. The overall winner will receive a $20 gift certificate courtesy of my friends at Outback Steakhouse. And, they have been gracious enough to throw in free Bloomin’ Onion cards for the winner of each round, too. So, the steaks (er…stakes) are high and you need to sign up today!!!

To enter, just follow this link to the private group that I have set up for my friends on ESPN’s site. The group name is DP on the Go if you need to search for it and the password is Outback. (If you need the back story on my history with Outback, you can read it here.  They are a great company who loves interacting with their fans including an adventure for my 40th birthday that later included even meeting Debbie Gibson.  I would encourage you to follow them on Twitter at @Outback.)

I’ll look forward to having you join in on the fun. Your entry (only one per person) must be submitted before the first game tips off on Thursday at noon ET. The First Four games are not picked in this contest.  Besides entering your picks on time, the only other requirements are that you are following me on Twitter or a friend on Facebook and that I can tell who you are by your entry name.  Have fun!

Horse with a Legend

HorseWithALegendOne of the great things about social media is that it can afford you the opportunity to meet people you may have otherwise never crossed paths with.  I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have had many such encounters and I really enjoy when those online friendships cross over into real life interactions.

Today, Twitter helped me have the opportunity to play HORSE with a legend and brought four unlikely friends together.

About five years ago, I crossed paths briefly for the first time with Stephanie White when she was covering the NCAA women’s basketball regionals at Dayton for ESPN and I was volunteering with the site staff compiling game notes.  I started following her on Twitter and enjoyed watching her career unfold from afar.

A couple of years later, I was able to get to know Stephanie a little bit better when she agreed to be a guest speaker via Skype for a Sports Information class that I was teaching.  As I did a little research about her in order to introduce her to my class, I realized what an incredible athlete she is.  She was the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior in high school and then the Wade Trophy award winner as the National Player of the Year as a senior at Purdue as she led the Boilermakers to the national title.  She also went on to play in the WNBA.

These days, Stephanie just wrapped up her ‘rookie’ season as the head coach of the WNBA’s Indianapolis Fever where she led her team to the WNBA finals.  She also keeps busy in the offseason as a broadcaster, which is what brought her to the Columbus area today as she’ll call the action between Ohio State and UConn on Monday evening.

The other part of today’s Horse with a Legend competition trio is Tim Cary.  Tim is a graduate of Cedarville University, a big rival school of Mount Vernon Nazarene University where I attended college and then worked in the sports information department for 20 years.  I first met Tim in person a couple of years ago, but we’ve been friends via Twitter for a long time before that and he was also a guest Skype speaker in the class that I taught on several occasions.

Like me, Tim also uses social media to develop relationships he might not ever have made otherwise.  He is a worship leader at a church and a very talented pianist.  He is also a big Purdue fan which makes him a big fan of Stephanie White.  Through his work with Bleacher Report and then CBS Sports Online, he had also developed a connection with Stephanie over the years.  This led us to somewhat jokingly saying that the three of us should meet somewhere to play HORSE.  🙂

12247029_816089759070_2233760337608817349_nWell, after almost two years of trying to figure out how to pull this off, we did it today.  With Stephanie coming to the Columbus area for work, Tim found a gym for us to play in thanks to Ray Slagle at Worthington Christian High School who coached a state championship team in 1999 as well as five NAIA Division II national tournament qualifiers at Cedarville.

I’ll be honest…I hadn’t shot a basketball in about six months and haven’t been very active for the past three months due to breaking my foot.  But none of that mattered as it was just about meeting up with people that I respect.  I tried my best, but I’m still not much of a shot and Stephanie quickly knocked me out in both games that we played with a Larry Bird-esque shot over the backboard in the first game and then just a steady barrage of mid-range jumpers in game two.  (Yep, I was the sacrificial lamb who shot after her to start each game.)  Tim did nail some great shots in the second game and nearly pulled off the upset, but Stephanie’s consistent sweet shooting stroke did him in both times too and she picked up the expected title.

Definitely the coolest part of the entire experience was just listening to Stephanie answer questions about life in the WNBA, coaching, broadcasting, and anything else that the three of us tossed her way.  She is a class act and treated all of us as though we were friends that she hangs out with on a frequent basis.  And, I found out that she really likes the chicken spinach mozzarella pizza from Donatos, while Tim was more than happy with the pepperoni pizza I also brought.

Thanks, Stephanie, Tim, and Ray, for making Horse with a Legend possible and so much fun.  And thanks again, Twitter, for allowing me the opportunity to make new friends.

And the Winner is………

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.

11139808_10153222602793784_714679551_nWith 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!

Updating the Outback Bracket Contest

marchmadnessWell, we are down to the Final Four in the annual college basketball March Madness tournament and that means that it is time to update the results of my sixth annual bracket contest sponsored once again by Outback Steakhouse.

There have been lots of upsets along the way, but in the end we still have three No. 1 seeds in Kentucky, Duke, and Wisconsin standing along with No. 7 seed Michigan State, who really doesn’t seem like that much of a Cinderella.  As the teams head to Indianapolis for the Final Four starting on Saturday, the favorite to win it all is still Kentucky in their pursuit of the first perfect 40-0 season in NCAA Division I men’s college basketball history.  In fact, 45 of the 68 people who entered my contest this year picked the Wildcats, who have been the No. 1 team all season.

Let’s catch up on our winners of each round of the tournament so far in my contest.  In the round of 64, contest newcomer Ken Varian came out of the gates very strong by correctly picking 28 of the 32 games to be our first Bloomin’ Onion winner, courtesy of my friends at Outback.  Just like the awesome runner that he is, Ken was super consistent as he missed just two games each day.

The round of 32 saw Rick Burke and Josh Wood both correctly pick 12 of the 16 winners as they each earned a free Bloomin’ Onion.  Rick’s consistent picking over the first four days of the tournament also landed him at the top of the standings heading into the second week of action.  (It comes as no shock to me that Rick has great guessing skills since he did win on The Price Is Right during his college days when he guessed the price of a washer and dryer exactly to win them and $100 and then won a Mazda 626 in the One Away game in 1985.  RICHARD BURKE….come on down!!!!  LOL)

Troy Current, the contest leader, with his daughter, who is probably the real brains behind his picks.

Troy Current owned the Sweet Sixteen as he correctly picked all eight winners to catapult himself into contention as he grabbed the Bloomin’ Onion certificate for that round.

Troy, who I’m sure had his daughter make his picks for him, continued his domination in the Elite Eight by once again chosing all four of the winners as he took over the top spot on the leaderboard with the best chance to win the grand prize and bragging rights.  However, four other contestants also correctly picked all four Final Four teams and will each receive a Bloomin’ Onion card.  Congratulations to R.J. Bergman, Tim Ryan, Cindy Warner, and Steve Wilging.

So, the stage is set!  Will Troy hold on to his lead with a Kentucky win over Duke in the title game?  Will defending champion George Hartz become our first back-to-back champion if Kentucky beats Michigan State in the finals?  Will R.J. grab the title with a Duke national championship?  Or will Steve, who won this contest in 2011, come from 12th place to win his second title with a Wisconsin win over Duke on Monday?  Plenty of excitement still to go.

If you get a chance, send a tweet to @Outback to let them know that we appreciate their support again.  I’ll be handing out a few more Bloomin’ Onions along the way too in addition to the grand prize – $20 certificate.