As the twenty-first century dawns, and the Presidential race heats up, it is comforting to realize that, while chiefs of state come and go, and millennia pass, some universal constants remain in the swirling cosmos. One such constant is that, come March, dozens of people will squander their money trying to peer into the future, at least the future of NCAA Tournament basketball. This year, 126 people have entered our little contest. Two entrants, Claude (a deceased cat) and Sam Karpp (a living nine year old who fills out his own pool) have opted to be non-paying entrants, meaning first place will net $654; second place, $327; and third place, $109. (For those who didn't know, we have added two $50 prizes -- one for the leader after selection of the NCAA Tournament field, and the other for the entrant who collects the most (combined) Final 8, Final 4, Champion, and Wild Card points.)

A second universal constant is that our contestants are hopelessly incompetent at peering into the future. Through Monday night, ten conference champions had been decided. Of our 126 contestants, a grand total of seven have managed to predict correctly more than half of these conference champions (Bobbie Shaid (7 of 10); Reider (7); Baumgarten (6); Creelman (6); FeVeCeRe (6); Gorman (6); and M Papalia (6)). And if you don't count Penn, who had all but clinched the Ivy League title before the pool was due, only Bobbie Shaid and Reider managed to get more than half of the nine champions correct.

But, perhaps we should qualify our earlier statement: some of our contestants are hopelessly incompetent at peering into the past. Three entrants (Conte, RC Natalini, and B Pappasergi) picked Princeton to win the Ivy League. Perhaps the news of Penn's victory over Princeton eight days before the pool was due, giving Penn a more or less insurmountable lead over Princeton in a league with no conference tournament, hasn't gotten to Western Pennsylvania yet. Two other contestants failed to pick an Ivy champion at all, but we'll discuss that later.

Forty-three entrants have only three of the ten correct. Ten entrants have only two of ten (Alberts; Geo B; Gold; Leeds; Peter O'Brien; B Pappasergi; Conte; P Leach; RC Natalini; and Chico Papalia). And in a display that would dazzle even Mash Leach, R Seidel has managed to choose a losing team in every single conference tournament so far, although at least he chose Penn.

Another universal constant is the delight the commissioners take in disparaging as many of our contestants as possible (but perhaps that's already obvious). In an attempt to enter the new millennium, this year we offered for the first time an electronic entry form (which approximately half of our entrants utilized -- thank you). Some skeptics predicted that, since the contestants merely had to type "yes" next to the names of the teams they wished to select, that we would have fewer embarrassing errors to report. Yeah, right, and instead of counting the primaries, Al Gore will challenge Bill Bradley to a winner-takes-the-nomination one-on-one game.

First, half the entrants still hand-wrote their entries, so we had the usual smattering of spelling and abbreviation adventures. Creative spelling included "Alburn"; "Sienna"; "Peperdine"; "Winthorp"; our personal favorite, "Louisvill Tech"; and, of course, "Perdue." Innovative abbreviations included "Syra," "Oklahom," and "Indian," and it should be noted that the latter is neither a proper abbreviation, nor politically correct.

But, heck, we already knew that our entrants had core competence problems in basic spelling. How about math? Three entrants, all of whom used the e-entry form, were unable to perform what we thought was a relatively simple task of counting to four. In a pool first, Broder picked six (yes, 6) Final 4 teams and nine (9) Final 8 teams (but only 33 at-large teams). Peter and Patrick O'Brien each chose five (5) Final 4 teams. Maybe there's something to heredity after all. Patrick added the extra touch of nine (9) Final 8 teams as well. Broder claims that the computerized counter that we built into the spreadsheet malfunctioned in his version of Excel. Did that cause him to mistakenly think that 3 + 1 = 6?

In light of the above, perhaps S Shaid can be excused for failing to count to 35, entering only 34 at-large teams. But how about the ten entrants who couldn't even count to one? Yes, this year ten people managed to pick the same team twice. Seven entrants chose the same team as conference champion and at-large: Yantosh (Weber St); Selig (Kent); Pinheiro (Iowa St); Peloso (Stanford); Corrin (Duke); B Pappasergi (Texas); and M Papalia (Syracuse, and apparently M Papalia thought that picking Syracuse twice was a better bet than choosing either UConn or Seton Hall once). (It should be noted that more than one of the above did, in fact, use the e-entry form, making their feats even more impressive.) But we've always thought that picking the same team twice at-large is the greater achievement, and so special congratulations are due to Dean (Auburn), Kennedy (DePaul), and Tiger (Oregon).

But if spelling and math are not your interests, how about reading comprehension? Huffnagle apparently felt that "No Tournament" and "No Automatic Bid" were synonymous, and declined to select either an Ivy champion or a Pac-10 champion. Joe Mc must have figured that "No Automatic Bid" was optional in some way, as he chose both a Mountain West and a WAC champion (as well as 34 at-large teams, giving him 65 overall).

What's that? You've read nine long-winded paragraphs and you still don't know who's leading the pool? Well, we can remedy that. Through games of March 5, the co-leaders are Bobbie Shaid and Reider, each with 35 points. Just behind the leaders are O Brooks, with 34 points, followed by Fitch, Kane, and McGuire, with 31 each. Baumgarten, Creelman, FeVeCeRe, Gorman, and M Papalia are also in the hunt, with 30 each. At the bottom is the amazing R Seidel, with just 8 points. Even more amazing, four players (Chico Papalia; RC Natalini; P Leach; and self-proclaimed soothsayer Conte) are only two points ahead of R Seidel, with 10 each.

Undoubtedly due to their chemical composition, the four mutants who entered (DREG; FREG; GRED; and GREF) all currently have identical scores (20).

With our righteous reputation for ruthless ridicule, we can (to an extent) understand entrants who enter under timorous pseudonyms such as Arrowman, McMoose, and S&R. We are also happy to announce that the person behind the ultimate in wimpy monikers, "Prefers Anonymity," has this year come out of hiding and entered under his true name, Gladstein; he's even helped us with a programming trick in Excel (but, more on him later). But to prove we're not so cruel, we'd like to offer some friendly advice to the person who entered under the names FeVeCeRe and P2E2R2G2. First, if you wish to remain anonymous, don't enter your true identity in the box labeled "last name." Second, don't e-mail your entry from the address "bdimarco@delinvest.com (DiMarco, Bruce J.)." (Besides, shouldn't someone named "P2E2R2G2" be auditioning for the role of the droid in the next Star Wars flick instead of entering an NCAA contest?)

One of the things that puzzled us about the AP Top 25 included with the entry form was that Kansas State got 15 votes (in the "others receiving votes" section). At first blush, this may not seem so odd, but consider: on February 7, when that poll was released, Kansas State was 1 - 9 in their conference, 8 - 13 overall. How could 15 people responsible for voting for the top 25 vote for a team with that record? But what's really got us worried is that six of our contestants selected Kansas State at-large (Cowboy; Dean; Dodger; Huffnagle; Kennedy; and Packer). Do they know something we don't know? (We guess that when Kansas State becomes the first team ever selected at-large with an under .500 record, the last laugh will be on us. Or not.)

But inventive strategy is nothing new to this pool. Every year somebody decides to enter a team in their Final 4 that they don't think will make the Final 8. This year, that honor goes to Dean (Duke in Final 4 but not Final 8) and Gladstein (the contestant formerly known as "Prefers Anonymity" -- Oklahoma St in Final 4 but not in Final 8).

But the ubiquitous Salus did them one better, choosing Villanova as his Wild Card, but not to make the field of 64. (And though we intend no malice toward the bilious and callous Salus, it would be a fallacy not to notice that his choices never fail to thrill us.) Even more daring, Chico Papalia (with whose name we have absolutely no desire to alliterate or rhyme) chose Purdue to make the Final 8 but not to make the field.

Other guileful entrants tried to get on the commissioners good side. Corrin, for example, obviously attempted to curry favor by choosing the commissioners' favorite team, Duke, as both conference champion and at-large (and it almost worked, too). Still other cunning contestants endeavored to confuse the commissioners (which admittedly is not that hard to do). P Joseph, for example, chose "St. Francis" to win the Northeast Conference (a league featuring both St. Francis (NY) and St. Francis (PA) -- we gave her St. Francis (NY)). Both Linton and Chico Papalia chose "Miami" at-large (we gave them both Miami-Florida, rather than Miami-Ohio).

Even more puzzling was the cagey Kane, who seems to have decided that the Ivy League and the MAAC would go championless (leaving those league champions blank), but would still merit at-large consideration, picking Penn (Ivy favorite) and Siena (MAAC favorite) as at-large teams (giving him 27 conference champs and 37 at-large teams). Silverman (Trans Am and WCC) and Dodger (Colonial) also seem to have decided that certain leagues were not strong enough to merit a champion (although neither of them were clever enough to choose extra at-large teams to make up for the shortfall).

Other shifty participants made insidious efforts to evade the rules entirely. Silverman and Ubaldini each illegally chose #6 Michigan State as their Wild Card, while Cuz Papalia chose a more subtle route, picking St. Johns both in his Final 8 and as Wild Card. Three entrants (Dodger, Cowboy, and Packer) chose WAC member Tulsa to win the WCC championship (and somehow we just don't think that will happen).

Every year, the commissioners peruse Mash Leach's pool with the sort of sick fascination usually reserved for train wrecks. As usual, he did not disappoint. The Monster Mash took fourteen conference champions that were chosen by fewer than 10% of his fellow pool players (Maryland, chosen by Mash and 11 others; Montana (10 others); Iona (9); Indiana (9); UConn (9); Detroit (6); Missouri (4); New Mexico St (3); Austin Peay (2); Ball St (1); Quinnipiac (1); Jackson St (alone); Santa Clara (alone); and Fla. Int'l. (alone). He also picked ineligible Minnesota at-large.

Rivaling Mash this year is Spitz, who in some ways was more impressive, choosing ten at-large teams that were agreed on by fewer than 5 others (Maine (chosen at-large by 4 others); Lafayette (3); Alcorn St (2); Princeton (1); UMass (1); Delaware (alone, giving Spitz three teams from the powerful America East Conference); Montana (alone); Charleston (alone); George Mason (alone); and Sam Houston (alone)), as well as SE Missouri St (chosen at-large by 11 others).

And while not Mash-esque (or event Spitz-esque), several other entrants showed significant originality in their choice of conference champions. Chico Papalia chose 8 conference champs who got 12 or fewer votes: Austin Peay; Georgia St; Detroit; No. Arizona; Marshall; Alabama A&M; Robert Morris; and LSU. McGuire chose 8 such teams (Maryland; Liberty; Iona; Indiana; Creighton; UConn; Kansas; and LSU) but also chose 7 at-large teams that got fewer than 12 votes (Marshall; Maine; Detroit; Siena; Louisiana-Lafayette; SE Missouri St; and Akron). O Brooks chose 7 "original" conference champions (Bucknell; Creighton; Purdue; Iona; LSU; Hampton; and Seton Hall), and 4 "original" at-large teams (Appalachian St; Marshall; SE Missouri St; and Louisiana-Lafayette). Disbrow went for 7 "original" conference champions as well (New Mexico St; Miami-Fla; Oral Roberts; Maryland; Akron; LSU; and Creighton).

Overall, eleven teams were unanimous choices to make the field (Duke; Ohio St; Indiana; Maryland; Cincinnati; Michigan St; Stanford; Syracuse; Temple; Auburn; and Arizona), with another 21 teams receiving at least 120 (out of 126) votes. Cincinnati was the only unanimous conference champion selection, while Temple was chosen as Atlantic 10 champion by everybody except Fitch (who chose Dayton). The above does not necessarily bode well for Cincinnati and Temple, however. Already, five teams who received more than 80 votes as conference champions have lost (Siena (115 votes); Charleston (103); Kent (91); Murray St (90); and Indiana St (83)). Shows what we know.

For National Champion, only five teams got more than four votes. Our favorite is Cincinnati (32 votes); followed by Stanford (29); Duke (29); Michigan St (16); and Temple (14). Four contestants picked Arizona (Arrowman; M Josephs; Packer; and Rogers), Bud Acchione chose Oklahoma State, and Gladstein (the entrant formerly known as "Prefers Anonymity") chose Ohio State.

Only five Wild Cards got more than 3 votes: St. Johns (49); Purdue (24); Seton Hall (13); Illinois (12); and North Carolina (6 - Byrnes; DREG; Gordon; P Joseph; E Leach; and S&R). Other Wild Cards chosen were DePaul (3 - Creelman; D Kedson; Yantosh); Dayton (3 - Joe Mc; McMullen; Chico Papalia); Missouri (3 - Brady; Connelly; Cowboy); Virginia (2 - Baumgarten; Selig); Louisville (2 - Butch Acchione; Arrowman); NC State (Gold); Kent (January Man); Oregon (Kleiman); Hofstra (S Karpp); Villanova (Salus); and Navy (Glowacki).

Standings are attached. Tag Team totals and other scoring breakdowns will appear in the next newsletter.

Standings As of March 5, 2000
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NameScoreConf ChampsWild CardChampion
Marc Reider357IllinoisDuke
Bobbie Shaid357Seton HallTemple
Oliver W. Brooks345Seton HallStanford
Colin Fitch315IllinoisMichigan St
Troy Kane315Seton HallDuke
Richard McGuire315Seton HallCincinnati
Neil Baumgarten306VirginiaCincinnati
Brian Creelman306DePaulTemple
FeVeCeRe306St. John'sCincinnati
Bill Gorman306Seton HallCincinnati
Mike Papalia306PurdueDuke
Buddy Acchione285IllinoisOklahoma St
Donnell Sheppard285St. John'sTemple
Joe Mc264DaytonDuke
Bill Acchione255St. John'sDuke
Jim Budwell255St. John'sCincinnati
Brett Connelly255MissouriStanford
Chris Dean255Seton HallStanford
Sandy Disbrow255St. John'sCincinnati
Mary Ellen Donadio255St. John'sStanford
Ellen Gordon255North CarolinaCincinnati
Laura Harlan255IllinoisCincinnati
Betsy Joseph255PurdueMichigan St
Matt Josephs255St. John'sArizona
Mom Kedson255Seton HallStanford
David Kedson255DePaulDuke
Andy Kennedy255Seton HallDuke
Domino Leach255PurdueDuke
January Man255KentCincinnati
Manny Pogach255Seton HallCincinnati
S&R255North CarolinaStanford
Randy Wanger255IllinoisDuke
Sarah Adams234IllinoisStanford
Bill Byrnes234North CarolinaCincinnati
Claude234St. John'sTemple
Bob D'Zuro234St. John'sDuke
Tom Golino234St. John'sMichigan St
Kevin Kasprzak234St. John'sMichigan St
Jack Vincent Kedson234St. John'sMichigan St
Grandpa Kedson234St. John'sMichigan St
Nick Mahalko234PurdueMichigan St
McMoose234St. John'sMichigan St
Chris Nowakowksi234PurdueStanford
Bob Peloso234St. John'sStanford
Mark Piccirillo234St. John'sCincinnati
Kona Rosen234St. John'sStanford
Mike Scott234St. John'sCincinnati
Michael Ubaldini234Stanford
Rich Warmbier234St. John'sDuke
Bob Huffnagle213Seton HallMichigan St
Bill Rourke213Seton HallCincinnati
Barbara Spitz213St. John'sDuke
Butch Acchione204LouisvilleCincinnati
Paul Brady204MissouriCincinnati
Jon Broder204St. John'sTemple
Lou C.204IllinoisTemple
Jeff Clark204PurdueTemple
Brian Corrin204IllinoisMichigan St
John, Jr. Donadio204PurdueMichigan St
DREG204North CarolinaCincinnati
Kevin Grande204St. John'sStanford
GREF204St. John'sDuke
David Josephs204IllinoisStanford
Marc Kleiman204OregonDuke
Mash Leach204IllinoisStanford
Bill McGarrigel204St. John'sMichigan St
Rob McMullen204DaytonStanford
Patrick O'Brien204PurdueDuke
Tom Pappasergi204St. John'sDuke
Paula Silverman204Cincinnati
Jay Yantosh204DePaulStanford
Michael Baer183St. John'sDuke
Cowboy183MissouriMichigan St
Longin D'Zuro183St. John'sStanford
John, Sr. Donadio183St. John'sCincinnati
Joe Glowacki183NavyDuke
Susan Hanson183St. John'sStanford
Jack Henderson183PurdueDuke
John Joseph183St. John'sCincinnati
Sam Karpp183HofstraTemple
Russell Karpp183St. John'sStanford
Eesara Kedson183St. John'sTemple
Justin Kestner183St. John'sCincinnati
Audrey Kohart183St. John'sStanford
Manute183St. John'sStanford
Packer183Seton HallArizona
Cuz Papalia183Cincinnati
Brian Pinheiro183St. John'sCincinnati
Joe Rogers183St. John'sArizona
Norm Rosen183St. John'sTemple
Richard Salus183VillanovaStanford
Rick Schlegel183St. John'sDuke
Susan Shaid183St. John'sStanford
Bob Shaw183PurdueMichigan St
Rick Simon183Seton HallDuke
Kate Sullivan183PurdueCincinnati
Mark Tiger183PurdueStanford
Clinton Walker183PurdueCincinnati
Susan Abrams153PurdueCincinnati
Coach Doc153PurdueStanford
Michael Donnelly153St. John'sDuke
Michael Einbinder-Schatz153St. John'sTemple
Barry Gladstein153IllinoisOhio State
Phoebe Joseph153North CarolinaTemple
Leo L.153PurdueDuke
Ed Leach153North CarolinaCincinnati
M Linton153St. John'sStanford
Matt Mazeffa153St. John'sCincinnati
Arnold Selig153VirginiaDuke
Al Alberts132PurdueDuke
Geo. B.132IllinoisMichigan St
Ken Gold132North Carolina StTemple
Ed Leeds132St. John'sStanford
Peter O'Brien132PurdueDuke
Bruno Pappasergi132St. John'sCincinnati
Frank Conte102PurdueCincinnati
Perry Leach102St. John'sMichigan St
Robert C. Natalini102St. John'sCincinnati
Chico Papalia102DaytonTemple
Richard Seidel81St. John'sDuke