The fourth annual Pool o' Experts is off and running, with last year's near-champion, Yoni Cohen of FoxSports.com, in the lead.
The Pool o' Experts features a roster of national typists and chatterers, plus you, the unwashed hordes as represented by the CBS.SportsLine.com users' bracket, and my son, Buster, the coin-flippinest 3-year-old in the Milky Way.
To answer the inevitable question: Yes, Buster really exists. When football season comes in five months and he's still 3, I'll get letters saying it seems like he's been 3 for about two years, which says something about how we perceive the inexorable crawl of time. But I don't know what.
Anyway, correct predictions earn 10 points in the first round, 20 in the second, and 40, 80, 120 and 160 for subsequent rounds.
Cohen leads with 490, 20 points ahead of Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS. This column is biding its time near the rear of the pack, as it were, looking for an opening between horses.
Some changes this year: The pool has dropped from 16 entries to 13. Several regulars are gone. The Sporting News has either not published its experts' brackets or hasn't made them easy to find online, which is a requirement, so Kyle Veltrop, Mike DeCourcy and 2004 Pool o' Experts champ Tim Brando aren't playing this year. The same goes for John Salley of Fox Sports.
Also absent are Alexander Wolff of Sports Illustrated, who is off starting up an expansion team in the American Basketball Association and writing about it amusingly from time to time, and the magazine's own bracket, which, unlike in past years, is an exact mirror of S.I. writer Grant Wahl's.
Since the unbounded hubris of Sports Illustrated's bracket was the inspiration for the "expert"-humbling Pool o' Experts four years ago, it pleases me to report that the magazine's predictions ("Kansas: Defensive efficiency pays off with a Final Four berth") have landed its bracket ("Michigan State: Spartans prevail over shorthanded Pats") in second-to-last place, ahead of only Buster.
But probably not for long. Buster has six Elite Eight teams alive while the magazine has five, and S.I. has already had two Final Four teams eliminated. Buster's only lost one.
Buster's coin-flipping strategy was modified again this year. Essentially, he picked all huge favorites, flipped toss-up games, and needed to flip tails twice to pick the upsets in between. Write me for details if this interests you, but think really hard before you do that, and maybe call your therapist.
Buster's coin has UConn beating UCLA in the title game, a far more reasonable pick than his first time around, when his unweighted coin came up with East Tennessee State as the champion. Could happen. Didn't.
New to the Pool o' Experts this year: Tony Kornheiser, whose bracket is published as a graphic in the Washington Post. OK, how do I get that arrangement? I wrote 2,970 words to preview the Tournament. Kornheiser wrote 155.
I'd have written fewer but I didn't have time.
Also new to the Po'E this year are CBS.SportsLine.com columnist and blogger Gregg Doyel, who is very good and very funny, and a bracket reflecting the results of 10,000 simulated Tournaments by the site WhatIfSports.com.
I found that bracket on FoxSports.com last week, but can't find it anymore. I wonder what happened. But not enough to find out. (Update: Cohen sent me the link. Here it is.
For the full standings, visit this column's Table Talk thread.
I also told you I'd keep you posted on my mostly flying-blind women's bracket. As always, I'm doing better picking women's games. I got 20 first-round games right on the men's side, 23 for the women. I correctly pegged 11 women's teams for the Sweet 16, only nine men's teams.
I'm entered in a media-only pool through ESPN. Through the first two rounds I'm in a three-way tie for 29th place in a 39-entry pool with 450 points, which would be good for third place out of 13 in the Pool o' Experts.
Seven of my Elite Eight and all of my Final Four are still alive, but I suspect that's true of everyone who didn't project Albuquerque top seed Ohio State getting to the semis. The Buckeyes were stunned by Boston College Tuesday.
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A fantasy sports geek is hatched [PERMALINK]
As long as I'm being self-indulgent, I might as well tell you about the "experts" fantasy baseball league I'm subjecting myself to, which you can read about at Baseball Prospectus.
I make this solemn vow to you today: I will not bore you with discussion of how my fantasy baseball team is doing or who is on it.
I've never played fantasy or rotisserie baseball, or any other sport, before, and have in fact actively avoided it. But I figured it's such a big part of fandom these days, I ought to experience it. So when Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus invited me to take part in the B.P.-sponsored league, I accepted. We're all playing on behalf of a charity.
The thing that appealed to me is that the league isn't based on the traditional set of five rotisserie stats, but uses complete rosters, including taxi squads, to play a full schedule of simulated games through Scoresheet Baseball. In each week's games, the players do as well, and can only play as much, as they did in real life the previous week.
So the idea is to put together a good baseball team, not a good fantasy team.
The league consists of me, six Baseball Prospectus writers -- Ben Murphy, Kevin Goldstein, Joe Sheehan, Rany Jazayerli, Jonah Keri and Silver -- Jeff Erickson of the fantasy site RotoWire.com, football writer Peter King of Sports Illustrated, sports handicapper and radio host Dave Cokin of ESPN920 in Las Vegas, ESPN.com baseball writer Rob Neyer, and Wall Street Journal sports columnist Sam Walker, who has a book out called "Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe," about his participation in the ultimate experts' fantasy league, Tout Wars.
My goal is not to get smoked by this pile of actual experts. Peter King has expressed the same hope.
Like I said, I won't bore you with how my team is doing, but I'm hoping to glean some insights about an important aspect of 21st century sports fandom, and if that happens I'll share them with you.
The first thing I've noticed is that it's taking way too much of my time. I asked my cousin Rob Granick to be my team's co-owner, and he and I have spent more hours over the past two weeks discussing possible 30th-round draft pick Chris Gomez -- 1B, ss, Baltimore -- than I have spent talking to or thinking about my son Magglio and my daughter Sabathia.
Or whatever their names are.
Previous column: Japan: World champs!
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