College Basketball Nation: ESPN Tourney Draft

Two weeks ago, just after the selection committee released the field and just before the play-in games got underway, we decided to take on the tournament prediction process in a slightly different way. Myself, John Gasaway, Jason King and Mark Schlabach participated in the inaugural ESPN Tourney Draft. We each selected 17 teams in a snake-style draft, picking for value and hoping for the best.

After the first weekend, Gasaway and King were out in front, with yours truly trailing by four points. Schlabach fell way behind the pack, and with just two teams in the Sweet 16 (John and Jason had five, I had four) Mark's odds of success looked unlikely.

Where does the ESPN Tourney Draft stand now? I've got to say: I like my chances.
  1. Eamonn Brennan: 41 points (Final Four teams: Kentucky, Louisville)
  2. John Gasaway: 41 points (Final Four teams: Ohio State)
  3. Jason King: 28 points (Final Four teams: none)
  4. Mark Schlabach: 22 points (Final Four teams: Kansas)

Looking good, right? I know. I'm excited too, you guys.

Of course, there's still a chance I could lose this thing. Why? Our scoring system is as follows: Rounds 1 and 2: 1 point; Round 3: 2 points; Round 4: 4 points; Round 5: 8 points; Round 6: 16 points; Champion: 32 points.

I'm guaranteed another 16 points, because either Kentucky or Louisville is going to win on Saturday. That's just math. But I'm also guaranteed to lose another team Saturday, too, and if either Ohio State or Kansas wins both games and takes home the title, our imbalanced scoring system (we probably should have thought that one through a bit, but hey: live and learn) will guarantee a win for John or even Mark, despite his horrendous and, if I may say so, downright embarrassing performance to date. In an ideal world, those unlikely Louisville Cardinals would be on the other side of the bracket, and I would have a chance at notching a full 32 points on Saturday alone, making my position unassailable despite the outcome of the national championship game on Monday.

But I'd also like a million dollars and a bathtub that doubles as a nacho cheese fountain; you can't always get what you want. As it is, I'm pretty happy. I have two teams in the Final Four, including the overwhelming favorite to win it all. Why? Because our editor, Brian Kelly, created the draft order based on the first letter of our last names. Take that, other letters in the alphabet! Now let's bring this thing home, huh?
Could a full-time college football writer who only seasonally moonlights in the world of basketball really draft a better portfolio of NCAA tournament teams than three guys who live, breathe, eat and sleep college hoops? The answer -- thankfully, for our own sense of self-worth -- appears to be a resounding no.

That's the verdict from the first weekend of results in the ESPN Tourney Draft (obligatory hashtag: #ESPNTourneyDraft), wherein Mark Schlabach, author of seven books on college football, fell behind yours truly, John Gasaway and Jason King in rather decisive fashion. After the first two rounds, the results were as follows:
  1. John Gasaway: 21 points, five Sweet 16 teams
  2. Jason King: 20 points, five Sweet 16 teams
  3. Eamonn Brennan: 17 points, four Sweet 16 teams
  4. Mark Schlabach: 10 points, two Sweet 16 teams

Yours truly was hurt by upset losses to Florida State, Georgetown, UNLV and Temple, but having Kentucky, Marquette and Louisville helped, while Ohio -- my 14th pick! -- shocking the world and ending up in the Sweet 16 kept me in the hunt. John, meanwhile, drafted well, retaining his top four picks (Ohio State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Indiana) and value-pick Florida. After Missouri's shocking first-round loss, Jason got help from some of his later round selections; his remaining teams are North Carolina, Baylor, Cincinnati, Xavier and NC State.

As for Schlabach? His entire hopes rest on his top two picks, Kansas and Michigan State, after Vanderbilt, Duke, Michigan, Long Beach State, Notre Dame, Murray State, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's, Davidson, SDSU, Southern Miss, Alabama, Western Kentucky, Miss. Valley State and LIU Brooklyn all lost in the first weekend. Yeah: Ouch.

Can Schlabach make a rousing comeback? It doesn't look likely. Can I? My UK ace in the hole remains viable. But John is the clear front-runner, after Jason's most viable Final Four/national title contender, UNC, suffered the potentially season-changing Kendall Marshall injury Sunday afternoon.

May the best team portfolio win.

And, if I may: In your face, Schlabach.

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