– 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.
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.
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.