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.


George Mason Makes Final Four

The biggest Cinderella story since at Villanova’s stunning 1985 championship run is on, with #11 seed George Mason continuing its improbable march through the NCAA tournament with an overtime victory over top seeded UConn. Ironically, its semi-final opponent could be Villanova, whose game with Florida just tipped off.

H. Darr Beiser of USA Today provides a quick game summary:

The George Mason Patriots danced their way into the Final Four on Sunday with a stunning 86-84 overtime victory over top-seeded Connecticut at the Verizon Center in Washington. With the win, George Mason became the highest seeded team to reach the national semifinals since 11th-seeded LSU reached the Final Four in 1986. But as has been the case with the Huskies all tournament, they simply wouldn’t go away when the game seemed all but over.

George Mason held a 74-70 lead late when the Huskies’ Marcus Williams hit a jumper with seven seconds left to cut the deficit to two. Rudy Gay then committed a quick foul on the Patriots’ Tony Skinn with six ticks left on the clock. After Skinn missed the front end of the one-and-one, Williams swiftly drove to halfcourt and passed to Denham Brown on the wing. Brown drove baseline and made an acrobatic reverse layup that bounced on the rim three times before finally falling through the net after the buzzer sounded to send the game into the extra frame.

In overtime, the Patriots calmly nabbed a quick lead after Will Thomas hit a jumper with 4:13 left. The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes until Thomas hit another jumper with 2:11 remaining that put the Patriots up 82-78, a lead they would not relinquish a second time.

Jai Lewis led the way with 21 points and Lamar Butler and Will Thomas added 19 apiece. But the win didn’t come without a complete team effort. All five Patriots starters finished the game in double figures as Skinn pitched in 10 and Folarin Campbell added 15.

MSNBC piles on,

Now this is madness.

George Mason stunned No. 1 Connecticut 86-84 in overtime at the Washington D.C. Regional final on Sunday, as the No. 11 seed became one of the most surprising stories in NCAA Tournament history.

Connecticut was regarded as one of the tournament favorites due in part to their coach, Jim Calhoun, who has won two NCAA titles, and their roster of NBA-caliber players, led by probable draft picks Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams, Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone.


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