Wimpy's March Madness  2018

And thus ends the 2018 edition of Wimpy's March Madness.  Joe Sack rode the Villanova wave to jump past Ken Jones, who had led for most of the tournament. Nick Jasperson also took a leap over Ken due to his picking a Villanova Championship.  Wimpy had Villanova as well, but was 5 points too far behind to creep into the third spot. Nobody predicted the highly unlikely Final Four of Loyola, Michigan, Villanova, and KansasAdrienne Cohen came closest with 3 out of 4, and a strong 44 on Loyola. 11 players correctly predicted the Final Two.  Each wins $30.  None of the final 3 games were close, with Loyola putting up a valiant effort for the 1st 32 minutes.

It's time to make my annual observances of the other noteworthy events of 2018.  Way, way back in the mid 90's, I was one of the first people to urge others to start using a new electronic payment service called Paypal. After a successful partnership for nearly 15 years, that company severed all ties with me in 2011 after discovering (gasp) that this annual contest (and wimpy squares) violated it's policy against gambling. This had the unfortunate consequence of forcing me to require all players to pay by mailing me a check. Trust me, it had been every bit the inconvenience to me that it had been for you.  This year, a new service has emerged, and it's even more convenient than that one owned by eBay.  It's called Zelle, and it's a free product of Wells Fargo Bank.  Most major banks are using it, or a form of it, and I urge everyone to try it out if possible. It's free for now, although, like that other one, it may not be free forever. Dozens of players were able to pay me from the convenience of their home computer.

We had 222 entries, up 11 from last year.  We have a hardcore following, with a great many of our players submitting multiple entries. It's genuinely difficult to bring new players in, because it's just so damn hard! We also have the unfortunate timing of coinciding with the Spring North American Contract Bridge Championships every year. It's no secret that a large percentage of our participants are avid Bridge enthusiasts. It's only through the continued efforts of several people who work tirelessly to bring in new blood that keep our numbers up and our prestige high.

In 2015 and 2016, our roster failed to identify the National Champion.  Most years, you can predict the National champion simply by inspecting which team in our competition gets the most 1st place votes.  For the 2nd straight year, our players got it right.  68 different entries had Villanova going all the way.  The second most popular pick was a tie between two teams which barely made it out of the gate.  39 votes went to Virginia, which made history as the first #1 seed to lose in the first round since the field expanded to 64 in 1985.  39 more went not to a #1 seed or even a #2.  #3 seed Michigan State was an extremely popular choice amongst the faithful... a disappointed faithful when they lost to Syracuse in the 2nd round. That other perennial favorite, Duke, topped 26 ballots. Interestingly, that is exactly how many votes it got last year.  Coincidence?  The other two teams getting double digit confidence to go all the way were 1st round exit Arizona  with 14 votes, and Kansas, (12) which came within one humiliating game of getting to the final. The rest of the teams getting votes to win were  North Carolina, (8) Michigan, (7) Purdue, (6) Xavier and Gonzaga, (5) Cincinnati, (3) and Texas Tech (2).

In case anyone was wondering,  no one has yet ever submitted a perfect entry. A perfect score would total 3801 pts. This year, the winning total of 3369 did not come close to the record high score from 2007 of 3626 held jointly by Paul Astorino and Paul Laliberte.  Every year around this time, there is talk in the media about how remote it would be to fill out a perfect bracket. This got a lot of hype after Warren Buffet offered a billion dollars in 2014 to anyone who could pull it off.  Let me put this to rest. Assuming all teams being equal, there are only 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 ways to fill out 63 blanks. That number is truly tiny.  To give you an idea of just how tiny that number is, assume that every man, woman, and child on the planet (all 7,464,051,123 as I write this) started filling out entries. Let's assume that each could fill out an entire bracket in 1 second.  That's 60 entries a minute, 3600 entries an hour, and so on, 24 hours a day nonstop. If they started filling out entries at midnight tonight (April 2nd), assuming no duplications, this army would exhaust all of the possibilities a little after 9:36am, May 28th, 2057.  Why that's still in many of our lifetimes!

Now lets talk about some large numbers. Filling in blanks is trivial compared to rating each contest. It might surprise you to learn that there are over 10,654,499,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different possible perfect entries for this competition. That's 55 decimal places! That's a BIG number. That the number is truly inconceivable. For example, if you were to write a different  perfect entry on a single piece of copier paper, after only 201,314,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 sheets, (truly a miniscule fraction of the above number) the weight of the pile would outweigh the Earth.  Of course this number is microscopic when compared to the number of possible imperfect entries - like yours. (126 followed by 87 zeroes). You should note that it is only possible to achieve a perfect score if  you submit a consistent entry. Every year players submit entries with their 63 playing their 64 in the semi-finals, or two teams in the 50's playing in the second round. Experienced players try to avoid such careless errors.

Once again, thanks go out to the players who continue to recruit new players for the contest.  It takes a little while to figure out how to put in a competitive entry, but most players come back. Please remember to keep my email address in your online address book. If you change providers, you must drop me a note so that I can update my records, or else you will be like the nearly 2 dozen or so people who didn't get contacted this year because I couldn't reach them at their last known email address. If, during the year, you would like to add someone to my contact list, feel free to forward me their email address. Once their data is in my distribution list, it takes very little extra effort to keep everybody informed. We had a lot of new blood this year, and some long time players will be coming back. I would be surprised if we didn't crack 300 entries again someday. 

In 2014, I finally compiled a Wimpy's Hall of Fame, to honor our past champions. While this list is unfortunately incomplete, it does go back for 20 years. New players should note that first time players have won in the past, and experienced players often do quite poorly. This year's champion, Joe Sack,  is playing for the 2nd time.  Last year he finished 120th.  Last year's champion Christina Saville finished in 88th place.  The best finish by a previous champion was Larry Katzbeck (2009) in 8th followed by Clem "Goose" Gosiewski (1990) in 11th and Chris Grande (1999) in 12th.   Other previous champions who finished above average were Paul Castino (2011) 59th, Gerry Sexton (2004) 63rd, and  Paul Callard (2012) 67th. None of the other past champions who played had much to gloat about:
Ryan Gister (2006)   138th            Chris Scheuerman (2014)  153rd            Ted Kratochvil (2015)  171st
Scott Meyer (2005)   174th            Paul Astorino (2007)  197th
Eddie Holman (1996), Michele Russell (2008), and Tighe Carter (2013) did not play

When favorites win, past champions can appear to be brilliant. When there are a bunch of upsets, they appear to be as human as the rest of us. One thing that should be pretty clear, is that past accomplishments are rarely a yardstick for current success. This competition has a rich history, and I have every intention of preserving as much of it as I can. 

My challenge was to devise a scoring system which rewards the most accurate picks, while recognizing the importance (but does not overvalue) early round upsets. Long time players know that perhaps the biggest key to the pool is not so much how big a number you put on a team  that you thought would win and didn't (although that is a major factor), but more importantly how small a number you put on a team you thought wouldn't win, and did!  There were some very significant upsets this year. Your entry probably had little to no chance if you didn't pick Loyola-Chicago to win at least one game. Other than that key team, your main chance to jump out of the gate with a strong score was to have decent numbers on Kansas State, Nevada, Syracuse, Florida State, West Virginia, and Clemson. while avoiding placing too much of your resources on Virginia, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Xavier, or Arizona.  Normally, there are a few dark horses that are ridden into the winner's circle. This year, there were several surprises in the Sweet 16  such as Loyola, Kansas St, Nevada, Syracuse, and Florida State.  As the tourney progressed, the numbers you placed on those teams you thought would exit early became a critical factor as to whether you would contend or plummet. 

Here are my nominations for 2018 No Prize Awards:

Toris Terrors
had the highest 1st to last round gain (that didn't win any money) of +142 places, starting in a miserable 194th place moving up as high as 40th, and finishing in a respectable 52nd.
Andy Los I
started in contention in 23rd place and plummeted like a stone an incredible 130 places to finish in 153rd place.
Doug Scott
was in the money EVERY ROUND, as high as 4th.  He needed one more win from Loyola-Chi.  He finished out of the money in 16th.
Harry Jaffe  
fell the lowest of any of the entries in the top 10 after round #1. He fell from 5th to 92nd.
Ellen Wiebe started strong in 2nd place and even moved into 1st after the 2nd round. Betting on Michigan State cost her dearly.  She finished in 25th
Paul Parks submitted more entries than any player in the history of this competition. Of 10 entries, his highest finish was 25th.  (Entry #5 nabbed $30 in Final Two awards)
Art Schlichter may have more top 10 finishes than any other player in pool history.  He started in last place and stayed there.

Wimpy had his absolute best tournament ever in 2017 and hoped to finish in the top 3 this year. Wimpy is known far and wide for his consistency in picking favorites.  Last year, he tried something different.  He put in a second entry.  On his first entry, he picked the teams he thought would win.  On the second, (paid by Andy) he picked several upsets, and damned if they didn't all do better. Not one to screw with a winning formula, he did it again in 2018.  Incredibly, he finished 4th for the second straight year!  If you finished above average, congratulations, you beat a lot of pretty smart people. There are a lot of savvy players (and damn good guessers) in this pool. Most have expressed that the fun is in the competition, and I must agree. While the monetary prize will be sweet, I believe it is the honor of winning that Joe will remember most about the 2018 tournament. All top 3 places also receive the famous 2018 Wimpy's March Madness Champion embroidered shirt, (not available in stores!)

2018 is in the record books. I am predicting a 3-peat Wimpy winning streak in 2019 as well as the continued popularity of a new and retooled Wimpy Squares. Thanks to all who participated, and Don't forget to tell me if you change your email address!