With just four teams remaining, most of the 6.45 million brackets in this spring’s ESPN Tournament Challenge are suitable for lining a litter box.
Thanks a lot Norfolk State, Lehigh, Michigan State. . . but I digress.
Regardless of what happens in the NCAA Men’s Final Four on Saturday and Monday in New Orleans, Bill Plaschke has a Tournament Challenge entry suitable for framing.
Perhaps he will consider hanging a copy of it over his shoulder Tuesday during taping of another episode of Around The Horn, his first scheduled appearance next week.
The ATH regular and Los Angeles Times sports columnist ranks in the 100th percentile of entries submitted forecasting the men’s basketball tournament games. He nailed the Final Four of Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Ohio State.
“The whole key for me was Louisville,” Plaschke said via telephone before taping Friday’s ATH episode.
“I’m from Louisville, I saw what they did in the Big East tournament [Louisville won it]. Half of it was that I watched the Big East Tournament, and I really wanted [the Cardinals] to play Kentucky.”
He got his wish, as the Cardinals meet the Wildcats in one national semifinal Saturday. Plaschke has Kentucky meeting Kansas, which meets Ohio State in the other semifinal Saturday, in the title game. He has the Wildcats winning it all.
That said, “I will cheer like hell for Louisville” to beat Kentucky on Saturday, he said.
As lofty as “the 100th percentile” sounds, Plaschke has plenty of company among elite entries. He ranks 1,583rd overall.
According to James Quintong, ESPN.com Fantasy Sports editor, Plaschke is not even the highest-ranked bracket among those entered in the Around The Horn Group.
Among those 43,142 entries, Plaschke’s ballot ranks 15th.
He has 1,040 points. The ATH group leader has 1,110 points, 30 behind the overall game leaders: There are 11 entries who have amassed 1,140 points.
Still, a Kentucky victory over Kansas on Monday would vault Plaschke to third in the ATH group.
Because several of the entries ahead of him in the overall rankings also have the same outcome for the national championship, there’s no way Plaschke could “win” the game.
He’s ineligible for any prizes because of his work for ESPN.
Like virtually everyone else filling out a bracket, Plaschke has his regrets.
He whiffed on 7 of his forecast Sweet 16 teams. He recovered when seven of his Elite Eight schools made the cut.
Still, this is a big improvement over 2011.
“Last year, I had Old Dominion going to the Final Four,” he recalled.
When ODU lost a first-round heartbreaker to Butler, “[ATH’s] Jackie MacMullan texted me that afternoon and said, ‘You’re done.’”
But as you can see in the video above, the ATH crew salutes Plaschke’s forecasting skills this spring.