Rich Marchese realized a perk of winning the 2016 ESPN Men's Tournament Challenge - he met Bill Walton. (Photo courtesy of Rich Marchese)
Rich Marchese (R) realized a perk of winning the 2016 ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge – he got to meet ESPN analyst Bill Walton. (Photo courtesy of Rich Marchese)
I have filled out eight brackets this year, but my Final Four on my No. 1 bracket has Duke, Kansas, Arizona and North Carolina, with Arizona cutting down the nets over UNC.
– Rich Marchese

With more brackets expected to be entered in this year’s ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge than ever before, getting into the top 1 percent for a chance to win a random drawing for a trip to the 2017 Maui Invitational and a $10,000 Amazon Gift Card prize is slimmer than “slim to none.”

But you know, there is a chance.

Just ask last year’s winner Rich Marchese, who is hoping lightning will strike twice in Southington, Conn., just down the street from ESPN’s main campus in Bristol.

How was your trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational?
The trip to Maui was a once in a-life-time experience. Not only was I able to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth, but I was able to meet and have conversations with some of the big names in sports. Being from Connecticut and with UConn participating in the Maui Jim Invitational, I was able to meet Coach Kevin Ollie, along with ESPN broadcasters Jay Bilas and the great basketball legend Bill Walton!

Who’s in your Final Four for this year’s Tournament Challenge?
I have filled out eight brackets this year, but my Final Four on my No. 1 bracket has Duke, Kansas, Arizona and North Carolina, with Arizona cutting down the nets over UNC. I know how hard it is to repeat as national champs, so I went with a team that has championship history and has played well toward the end of the season. I also felt UNC was a solid pick for a return trip to the championship game after seeing them in person in Maui. Playing in the toughest conference in the country, I think they will have a chip on their shoulder after losing to Duke in the ACC tournament.

I’m still in shock that I was able to experience all the thrills I was fortunate to have last year. – Rich Marchese

Did you pick any big upsets?
I didn’t pick many major upsets, but I feel Michigan has a good chance at making some noise as a No. 7 seed, and I also feel Oregon might struggle because of a late-season injury to a key player. So I picked Creighton to advance over Oregon. I also like SMU out of the AAC to make a run into the Sweet 16 because I have seen them play in the AAC because of I’m a UConn fan.

Any advice for this year’s contest winner, assuming you probably won’t win?
I really hope lightning strikes twice, but in case I don’t pull off the repeat miracle, my advice is to just have fun with it! There is a reason they call it madness and anything is possible. There are no ways to predict a last-second buzzer beater from half-court, and every year there is something that happens that shocks us all. I’m still in shock that I was able to experience all the thrills I was fortunate to have last year.

NO COMMENTS