Skill, prep and luck spell success for local bracket buster


JoshElliott863 Winning one Free Press March Mania contest could be attributed to luck. But to win back-to-back titles, you must be doing more than flipping a coin or drawing teams out of a hat.

That?s definitely true for Josh Elliott, a Tabor College senior from Hillsboro, whose NCAA Men?s Championship Tourna?ment bracket in this year?s contest proved to be more prophetic than any other for the second straight year.

Elliott attributed his success this year to three to four hours of research, having a love for college basketball and sports in general?and more than a smidge of luck.

?I would have to say it?s one-third skill, one-third preparation and one-third luck,? Elliott said. ?Skill because you need to be familiar with the sport, preparation because you need to be familiar with the bracket and home-court advantages, and also luck because one game in a single-elimination tournament means anything can happen.?

Elliott is a veteran NCAA bracketeer; he said some years he has filled out as many as 15 brackets. This year he focused on eight: five with ESPN, two connected to his college classes, plus the Free Press contest?which is the only one he won.

Elliott accumulated 84 March Mania points this year, edging his nearest rival by six points. He correctly picked Ken?tucky?s win over Kansas in the champion?ship game and was right about Ohio State reaching the Final Four.

His pick for the fourth slot?Missouri?proved to be his greatest misstep. The Tigers, the No. 2 seed in the West Regional, lost in the first round to No. 15 Norfolk State. The major upset also cost him points in each of the three succeeding rounds because he picked Mizzou to win those games as well.

 The scoring system awarded one point for each correct first-round pick, two points for each second-round winner and so on for each round through the champion?ship game.

But an early upset doesn?t have to inflict major damage to a bracket. Like most fans, Elliott didn?t anticipate No. 2 Duke?s opening-round loss to No. 15 Lehigh. But because he picked Baylor to beat Duke in the third round, Elliott lost only three points rather than the 10 he lost by picking Missouri to win the West Regional.

Evaluating home-court advantages contributed to Elliott selecting KU to go deep into the tourna?ment. The Jayhawks? first two games were in nearby Omaha, Neb., and the next two were in St. Louis.

?I thought having the home-field advantage next to the border helps a little more compared to a one-seed like North Caro?lina,? he said.

Kansas defeated the Tar Heels for the regional title.

For the Final Four at New Orleans, Elliott stayed with Kansas in the semifinals partly because KU had beaten Ohio State earlier in the season, but also because of home-state preference.

But for the championship game against Kentucky, he opted for a strategy that might set himself apart from other March Mania contestants.

?I thought there would be a lot of people who would pick KU to win the championship game,? he said.

With the way the tournament ended, Elliott said he knew he might be in the hunt for this year?s March Mania title, but he was surprised to actually win it again.

?I was not expecting it,? he said. ?I was really excited that I won.?

The $200 in local ?Mania Bucks? will come in handy for Elliott. After he graduates from Tabor next month with a degree in business marketing, Elliott hopes to stay in town. He has already found an apartment and has sent out cover letters and resumes to potential employers.

?My plan right now is to stay around the Hillsboro area,? he said. ?I really enjoy it.?

If that plan works out, it means Elliott likely will be back in the hunt for next year?s March Mania title.

?I think I enjoy doing it just because I?m a sports fan,? he said. ?It?s kind of fun to compare the results and data to see how well you did?as well as others. It makes March Madness a lot more fun to follow. It feels like you?re a part of it a lot more.?

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