Sports Outside the Beltway

Five People of Seven Million Picked Right Final Four

NYT reporter Michael Schmidt says not to feel bad about blowing your NCAA brackets this year. You are not alone.

Know anyone who has the Final Four intact in the office pool? No way.

After all, not one top-seeded team made it. The last time that happened was 1980. Who could have picked the Patriots — not Tom Brady & Company, but the ones from George Mason?

Was there a secret to making sense of possibly the most unpredictable N.C.A.A. tournament? For Russell Pleasant, a 46-year-old software engineer from Omaha, it took a lucky mistake. When he filled out his bracket earlier this month, he thought George Washington would reach this weekend’s Final Four. Instead, he ended up picking George Mason, round after round after round, all the way to Indianapolis. Now, he finds himself a rare survivor among millions of broken hearts with busted brackets across the nation. In’s 2006 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Challenge, Pleasant had one of the four entries among three million with U.C.L.A., Louisiana State, Florida and George Mason in the Final Four.

Last season, 4,172 people picked all four teams in’s pool. But last year’s Final Four featured a more predictable lineup: two top-seeded teams, North Carolina and Illinois; a fourth-seeded team, Louisville; and a fifth-seeded team, Michigan State. At, none of the two million brackets submitted this year had all four teams. In the Yahoo Sports pool, just one of more than a million entered had all four.

Even with the ridiculous number of upsets this year, I would have figured dozens of people would have gotten the Final Four right just through the law of large numbers. Five people out of seven million? Wow.

Update: Josh Lewin is currently in 4th place in ESPN’s pool. Sadly, he picked UConn, eliminated by George Mason this weekend, to win the whole thing.

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