Bellarmine, Where are You?

A brand new team won their conference championship but this team is too new. Bellarmine is just in its 2nd season in Division I so because of the 5-year transition period, beating Jacksonville in the final got them just the title, not an automatic bid to March Madness (which now, the women can use). Had Bellarmine lost, Jacksonville would have made the tourney for the first time since 1986. But alas, the automatic bid goes to the Atlantic Sun regular season champion, Jacksonville St., who last made the tourney in 2017.

But for the 26th straight year of our pool, we will have at least one new team in the proper 64 tourney since we started our pool in 1995. Longwood U. (Big South) not only qualified for their first tourney but so did the women’s team. Bryant (NEC) also qualified but they may be in the First Four so they may have still have to win one more game to make the proper 64. First-time hopefuls Quinnipiac (MAAC) and Grambling (SWAC) are still alive and tournament drought teams such as Seattle (1969) and Toledo (1980) have a chance. Alabama A&M who lost in the First Four and thus didn’t make the proper 64 in 2005 are still alive (though as a sub .500 team, would be in the First Four).

Last July, during the Delta variant, I was actually able to get the logo and 2022 site up (as well as the 2022 World Cup pool site) so less work to do as we head into Selection Sunday. With “masks off” being the current trend (weird to walk into a Panera Bread in strict L.A. County and see almost everyone without a mask), I assume last year’s protocols still exist if a team gets a COVID-19 outbreak (similar to how VCU had to withdraw before it’s first round match vs Oregon last year).

Issue # 11.4.3 “Our Pool Has an Efficacy of 66.4%” (4/1)


Center for Disaster Philantrophy - COVID-19 Response Fund
2021 NCAA FINAL FOUR @ Indianapolis, Indiana
8th Final Four (’80 (Market Square Arena); ’91, ’97, ’00, ’06 (RCA Dome); ’10, ’15 (Lucas Oil Stadium))
Hosted by Indiana U.-Purdue U. Indianapolis (IUPUI) (Horizon League)
Lucas Oil Stadium – Unity & Equality Floor
First SemifinalSecond Semifinal
Hinkle Fieldhouse
Bankers Fieldhouse
Lucas Oil Sta (South)
Bankers Fieldhouse
Hinkle Fieldhouse
Lucas Oil Sta (North)
Hinkle Fieldhouse
Bankers Fieldhouse
Lucas Oil Sta (North)
Bankers Fieldhouse
Hinkle Fieldhouse
Lucas Oil Sta (South)
Baylor BearsHouston CougarsGonzaga BulldogsUCLA Bruins
Baylor University Bears (26-2)University of Houston Cougars (28-3)Gonzaga University Bulldogs (30-0)University of California, Los Angeles Bruins (22-9)
Big 12 Conference – Regular Season Champs
Waco, Texas

3rd Final Four (’48, ’50)
def #16 Hartford 79-55
#9 Wisconsin 76-63
#5 Villanova 62-51
#3 Arkansas 81-72
American Athletic Conference (2nd Place) – Tourney Champs
Houston, Texas

6th Final Four (’67, ’68, ’82, ’83, ’84)
def #15 Cleveland St 87-56
#10 Rutgers 63-60
#11 Syracuse 62-46
#12 Oregon St 67-61
West Coast Conference – Regular Season and Tourney Champs
Spokane, Washington

2nd Final Four (’17)
def #16a Norfolk St 98-55
#8 Oklahoma 87-71
#5 Creighton 83-65
#6 USC 85-66
Pac 12 (4th Place)
Los Angeles, California

19th Final Four (’62, ’64, ’65, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, ’71, ’72, ’73, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’80, ’95, ’06, ’07, ’08)
def #11a Michigan St 86-80 (OT)
#6 BYU 73-62
#14 Abilene Christian 67-47
#2 Alabama 88-78 (OT)
#1 Michigan 51-49

At least $248 will be donated to CDP; over $1,731 donated over 11 years

Largest bracket on the JW Marriott in downtown Indy

DIGNITY HEALTH SPORTS PARK, CARSON, CA (smt) – If you saw the largest bracket on the JW Marriott in downtown Indy, you would not see a lot of familiar names.  The tournament didn’t feature Blue Bloods such as Duke, Kentucky, and Indiana with UNC making it as an #8 seed and Kansas joining after having to quit their Big 12 tournament due to COVID-19 after struggling the first half of the year.  UNC lost in the first round and Kansas in the second.  That left UCLA.  The 11-time national champions lost their last four games and squeaked into the First Four game against a wanna-be Blue Blood, Michigan St.  The Bruins rallied from five down with 90 seconds left to force overtime to beat the Spartans, allowed a 3-pointer with less than a second left to Alabama and then routing them in overtime 23-13, and then survived three open three attempts by another Michigan team to hold on to defeat the Wolverines in the Elite 8.

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Easy Two

Well, the 128 of you who picked #7W-Oregon just got an easy two points, as their game against #10W-VCU tonight (the last of the evening) was cancelled (declared a “no contest”) due to multiple positives on the VCU contingent of players, coaches, and staff. The Ducks advance and become the 4th Pac 12 team to reach the 2nd Round (UCLA plays tonight). Apparently, there was too much uncertainty how much of the spread there was to declare five players healthy enough to play. Local health authorities drive the decision.

On the NCAA site it shows as 2-0 win by Oregon while ESPN shows “Uncontested” with no score.

Well, after the early 8 games today, License to ILL, Mr Wizard, and Dagger are tied for first with 40 pts (20-4) while Go Beach! is last with 20 pts (10-16). All 8 favorites have won today.

Outta Here!

We got the first COVID-19 casualty but it wasn’t a team (who all reported they were good Saturday night to be selected for the tournament and for the tourney teams, all reported good by the 4 pm PDT deadline today) who will go home, but six referees. So, sorry Louisville who was the first on the waiting list. #6E-BYU also won’t go home as the NCAA will swap the Midwest and East Sweet 16 dates so that BYU won’t have to play on Sunday, as per their religious principles. But first, BYU has to win 2 games this weekend. This will reduce the East rest period to just 4 days which is tenuous since a positive COVID-19 can play havoc on the 7 days of negative testing requirement for contact traced players.

We have 35 entries thus far (Enter Now!), which is our 4th highest at this point in time (55 in 2017) and we do get one extra day (deadline 9 am PDT Friday, instead of Thursday). It’ll be interesting to see if people modify their picks based on Thursday’s First Four results or who #3W-Kansas or #4W-Virginia, both who withdrew from their conference tournament due to COVID-19, bring to their first game (Virginia won’t fly in until Friday and then quickly need Friday & Saturday negative tests in Indianapolis). Can you imagine if those teams both get a COVID-19 hiccup, that would mean #1W-Gonzaga’s biggest challenge could be just #5W-Creigton in the Sweet 16.

Issue # 1.0.1 “The Indy 68”


Sunday, March 14, 2021  **HELP support Center for Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Fund (deadline Thu 4:00 pm PDT **)

After a long year, our 26th year hopes to offer a distraction

CAL POLY POMONA VAC SHOT #1, CA (smt)- After the March Sadness of 2020, where the NCAA along with all the sports leagues cancelled their seasons abruptly due to the rising COVID-19 pandemic, March Madness will try again this year, with health protocols and tournament procedures in place to enable completion of the tournament.  Soccer showed with the successful summer completions of  NWSL’s Challenge Cup and the MLS is Back tournament (which was the basis of our 11th HWCI soccer pool) in a location bubble that sports and the COVID-19 can coexist.  Going outside a bubble can lead to issues but the NCAA completed more than 80% of their scheduled games (the NFL 100%) and now all teams will descend into the Indianapolis greater area bubble. 

The Big Ten got a conference record 9 teams in, including 4 of the top 8 spots but unbeaten Gonzaga (26-0) got the #1 overall seed in the West.  Yes, the region names remain the same even though all games will be played in the greater Indianapolis area.  Tip times and locations were not announced during the selection show (which started ten minutes late as the Big Ten final went into overtime but took just 27 minutes to reveal the entire bracket) as those came out later.  Baylor got the #1 seed in the South while Illinois and Michigan got #1s in the Midwest and East.  The other Big Ten teams in the top 8 were #2S-Ohio St and #2W-Iowa.  SEC tourney winner #2E-Alabama and AAC tourney winner #2MW-Houston were the other #2 seeds. 

The top 41 ranked teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) made the tourney but so did NET70 #11bE-Michigan St while NET42 Penn St did not.  #11bW-Drake, as the final team in, has the Ivy League to thank, as with them not playing this year due to COVID-19, that allowed one more at-large bid (37) than usual.  Saturday’s upsets with #12E-Georgetown winning the Big East (were just 9-12 going into the tourney) and #12MW-Oregon St winning the Pac 12 (14-12 going into the tourney) knocked out Louisville and Colorado St, who along with St. Louis and Ole Miss, become the four alternates (in that order) if any tournament team has to withdraw by Tuesday evening.  #14S-Colgate played just 15 games but are 14-1 with a 13-game win streak.  Three teams played 30 games. 

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11th HWCI NCAA First Four for Charity (Due 4 pm PDT Thursday)

Support the Center for Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund

While you decide who will win the tourney, for the 11th year I’m doing the HWCI NCAA First Four for Charity, where I will donate $2 per entry to a charity (and if we get more than 25 responses, I’ll chip in an additional $25), this year to the Center for Disaster (CDP) Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund, which supports preparedness, containment efforts, response and recovery activities for those affected by COVID-19 and for the responders and has already distributed more than $21 million to 137 organizations in the U.S. and abroad.  With the virus still roaring across the world with different variants, this will be the 2nd straight year donating to a COVID-19 fund. This First Four for Charity is free and you just have to submit (you can comment on this post to enter, email, post to Facebook, tweet @HWCI_Pools) who the four First Four winners (played Thursday this year) will be and by what point margin. For example: Norfolk by 3, Drake by 2, Mt St Mary’s by 9, and UCLA by 1. The four games are Appalachian St vs Norfolk St, Drake vs Wichita St, Texas Southern vs Mt St Mary’s, and UCLA vs Michigan St.  Get your entry by 4 pm PDT Thursday.  As a bonus, in the end, if we top our record of 178 entries this year, I’ll donate an additional $25.  Also, invite your friends and people can enter (since it’s free) this charity contest but not our main pool. Last year, we set a record with $325 donated to Direct Relief COVID-19 Response Fund.

My picks: Norfolk St by 5, Wichita St by 7, Texas Southern by 3, and UCLA by 2.


ESPN will display “Uncontested” for games won by forfeit, giving us a possible sign of things to come in the tournament if teams can’t field five (yes, just 5) healthy players. Kansas, Virginia, and NC A&T had to withdraw from their conference tournaments due to positive test(s) just as Duke did earlier. The opponent advances (no word on if both teams have to withdraw) to the next round as usual. The First Four starts Thursday (rather than Tuesday) to allow for any positive test to work through its cycle (minimum 7 days of negative testing) which may allow Kansas, et al to field full strength teams by the time they play Friday or Saturday. NC A&T comes from the MEAC (one-bid league typically in the First Four) so despite being ranked #1 in the tournament, they won’t get an at-large bid like Kansas and Virginia. Even worse, with the NIT going from 32 to 16 teams for this year, there is no guarantee NC A&T will get an at-large invite to the tournament (normally they would’ve as regular season champ if they didn’t win the tourney).

So, write letters to your champion pick to stay safe, follow protocols, and be smart to avoid any chance of a positive test. Because if #1 Gonzaga tests positive next week, the #16 seed will get to play a #11/#12 seed alternate team in their first round game.

IEEE & Rutgers Again (Duke Out?)

So more than a year ago, I was excited that Rutgers was slated to be making the tournament for the first time in our pool era (ensuring at least one new team has appeared every year of our pool). Not only that, but it’s walking distance from the hotel we stay when we visit IEEE headquarters (the largest professional engineering society with over 400,000 members) in Piscataway, NJ. So, today, it seems Rutgers’ final conference win (after an embarrassing loss to Nebraska) has punched them through as one of at least 9 teams from the Big Ten.

Yes, so after a year of COVID-19 disruptions, loss of life (we hope everyone is doing okay and condolences for any loss), and coping, the NCAA tournament is back… moved to Indiana (Bloomington, West Lafayette, and Final Four host Indianapolis) for travel and safety concerns. And fans will be able to attend, at no more than 25% capacity. And our pool, the 26th (again), will be back. The NCAA has outlined that the bracket won’t be re-seeded or changed 48 hours after Selection Sunday, which means if your team can’t play due to COVID-19, they forfeit that game and the opponent advances to the next round (no-contest rule). We also get an extra day, as the proper 64 won’t start until Friday morning (First Four is Thursday). Now if both teams can’t play, don’t know… best mascot?

While several teams and the entire Ivy League canceled their seasons due to COVID-19, COVID-19 may just have knocked Duke out of the tourney for the first time since 1995, our first year of the pool. After getting above .500, they needed a strong run in the ACC tournament to secure an at-large bid. That won’t happen after withdrawing from the ACC tournament due a positive test (conspiracy theorists will say Duke will be an alternate team, then one tourney team will withdraw within 48 hours of the bracket and Duke will be back in…).

More to come!

Issue # 25.4 “25 Years: The Charities”


Thursday, April 16, 2020  ***HAPPY BIRTHDAY SON!!!***
[ 1-Entries | 2-Teams  | 3-Confs ]

A total of $325 this year donated to Direct Relief – COVID-19 Fund

SAFER-AT-HOME, CA (smt)- Well, they cancelled the tournament.  But they can’t cancel our good will.  For the 10th straight year, the HWCI NCAA First Four for Charity asked pool friends to reply back with quick answers to enter this free contest where I would donate $2 per entry to a worthy charity or cause.  This year, due to the extreme times we live in, was coronavirus-related and picked Direct Relief since they had a dedicated COVID-19 fund to donate directly to.  Direct Relief is coordinating with public health authorities, nonprofit organizations and businesses in the U.S. and globally to provide personal protective equipment and essential medical items to health workers responding to coronavirus.

1st First Four for Charity Email

Because there was no tournament, this year the question was “Who would you have picked to win the tournament?” instead of the usual First Four winners and margin of victory.  We did get 20 responses back and although we didn’t hit my stated target goal of 25 entries, I still will add in $25 for a total of $65.  Michael W and a very kind-hearted friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) will separately donate (since there is no pool, no sense for me to be the middle-man to collect funds) and add a combined $260 for a grand total of $325, our second highest donation-ever, after last year’s $460 to the Boys and Girls Club of America.  How did we get here?  Here is another 25 Year retrospective, this time on our HWCI NCAA First Four for Charity contest.

Curse the NCAA and their greed!  In ’11, there were going to be 68 teams (instead of 65) but instead of the worst 8 conferences playing for the four games, it would be just four, and the other four would be the last four at-large berths.  This meant that we went from a “don’t care” for Tuesday (didn’t matter who won #64/#65 Opening Round, every sane person would pick them to lose) to how do we deal with the 2 games featuring at-large teams on Tuesday/Wednesday?  Surely, #11-#13 teams have won before and people could pick them depending which team won.  Do we make them pick these First Four games by Tuesday?  No, not feasible.  We would just allow people to change their picks if they wanted after the First Four games.  Luckily, not many people did so it wasn’t a big logistical nightmare we thought (100 people suddenly changing their picks Wed night/Thu morning).

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#NotMe! See you in 2021!

Less than a day after announcing going ahead with the tournament without fans, the NCAA decided to pull the plug and cancelled March Madness. After the NBA had suspended play due to a Utah player testing positive for the coronavirus, Duke and Kansas strongly hinting they wouldn’t travel for the NCAA tournament, and after major leagues such as MLS and NHL paused their regular seasons (even minor ones like XFL), it was only a matter of time before everyone else followed suit. No one wants to be the “one” league that was defiant and then had an incident where players, coaches, and fans were exposed to the coronavirus. Better to be safe than sorry. Whether you agree or disagree, having a united front makes these decisions easier and will help slow the spread of the coronavirus. For some reason the USA cases went down 44 to 1,268 now (was 1,312). The USA only has 0.9% of all confirmed cases but that is likely to go up as more people get tested.

Despite California Governor’s call for no mass gatherings, after filling up gas I walked into Costco in Hawthorne, and they are definitely not following the rules! More than 150+ people packed like sardines, most standing in line all the way to the back of the store, everyone less than 6 feet from each other!

I am impressed with both the NCAA (all sport tournaments in Winter/Spring were cancelled as well) cancelling their big moneymaker (though the cynical side says it would have cost them more headaches and money holding games in empty arenas) and the lowly XFL which says they will still pay players and allow them to sign early with the NFL. Very classy.

Of course, thousands of athlete’s dreams (especially those who weren’t going to go pro) were crushed (#1 Kansas might get the title?), lots of Average Joes/Janes are now out of a job, and coaches may not get their postseason bonus money. Okay, that last one I don’t feel too sorry for.

As for our 26th HWCI NCAA Pool, the 26th will now be in 2021. At least the cancellation came before Selection Sunday so I don’t have to refund payments. Turning lemons into lemonade, this will give me a stress-free opportunity to reflect on the 25 years of the pool and will post periodically throughout March.

Also, while there is no First Four, there will still be the 10th HWCI NCAA First Four For Charity and an email will go out on no-longer-Selection Sunday on details on the charity and how I/you could donate to it.

Oh, Hi, Oh, Sorry, No Fans Allowed

Coming off the heels of the Ohio Governor banning large gatherings in the state (affecting Dayton’s First Four and Cleveland’s 1st/2nd Round games), the NCAA followed suit announcing (3/11/20) all March Madness games will be played without fans (in addition to all other NCAA sport tournaments such as the Frozen Four). This extreme precaution is an effort to not inadvertently contribute to mass community transmission of the coronavirus (aka, COVID-19) which has more than 126,000 confirmed cases and killed 4,638 people around the world (about 2/3rds from China). The USA has seen steady growth of daily cases and are now up to 1,312 (42 deaths, about 70% from Washington). Other sporting events have been affected as well.

Now big schools like Duke and Kansas will know what it feels like to be the Florida Marlins, Jacksonville Jaguars, or Ottawa Senators playing in front of sparse crowds with just essential staff, select media, and limited family members attending the games. The NCAA still sees incredible value for the athletes and teams who have worked hard for 1-4 years to make the big dance that, for now, the games will go on (unlike the Ivy League which just awarded Yale their entry, cancelling their conference tournament – sorry Harvard, Princeton, and Brown players). This offers the best chance at completing the tournament even if panic and chaos surrounds them in the next few weeks.

So how will this affect our 26th HWCI NCAA Pool? Nothing changes (for now) unless it is shown the virus can be transmitted via internet web entry submissions. However, possible clarifications will be:

  • For a given game, if one team forfeits (e.g., a team doesn’t want to travel), it counts as a loss just like any other outcome and their opponent will be the “winner”.
  • For a given game, if both teams forfeit, whatever method the NCAA uses to advance one of the teams to the next round (e.g., better seed advances, coin toss, coolest mascot) will be the “winner”.
  • If the tournament is postponed or paused, we will monitor and make a determination (e.g., if NCAA postpones Regional Finals/Final Four by a week or two to move into smaller arenas, we will just wait a week or two; if NCAA postpones until start of fall season (November), then we will probably refund).
  • If the tournament is cancelled, I have to go through the painful process of issuing refunds to everyone 🙂

Let’s hope and pray the coronavirus can be mitigated long enough (and hope it’s like the flu and is seasonal) for a possible vaccine next year. In the meantime, take precautions yourself and read about the latest at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.