Thursday, March 15, 2012

The 2012 Challenge Begins

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Daily Recaps

2012 Preview

The field in the 2012 Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge is the biggest and perhaps the most impressive ever. Once again picks poured in from all corners of the country and the world. But what makes this year distinct from previous seasons is the very strong mix of grizzled veterans with a new bumper crop of rookies, plus a couple players we have missed the past few seasons but are back this year. Perhaps that is why the excitement surrounding this year's Challenge is the greatest I have ever seen. Every year a couple players prematurely guarantee victory (most infamously "2009 Chippens NCAA Challenge Champion," who ended up finishing second-to-last), but this year almost 10 players have already given me their t-shirt size.

Here's a preview of the veterans, rookies, and "prodigal" players to look out for this year:


Back in the mix this year is the #1 overall player, Stumper. A Hall of Champions member thanks to his 2008 victory, Stumper has not finished lower than 16th since 2007. Last year, he finished 4th, and he still has a lot of room in that sombrero for more accolades. Tournament savants brutalbrutis and Blizzard T. Husky are also back this year.

Without a doubt, the player who has engaged in the most pre-tourney puffery is Senor Wences. All the "wannabees," he said, "can't and won't compete with me this year." He claimed that his rigorous retirement routine of sunning himself, performing aqua-aerobics with octogenarians, completing sudoku puzzles at happy hour, making penny wagers with house money, and single-handedly keeping Blue Bunny and Hershey's in business has made him "rested, ready, informed, and totally prescient." We shall see.

A host of players earn their Five Year Rings this year, meaning they are eligible for the All-Time Average Place list and have extra incentive to perform well. The players leading that list are probably Bone and hvporter. In the last four years, Bone has three finishes in the top 23, including a second-place finish in 2009. Meanwhile, hvporter has three finishes in the top 16. Mr. Beastly, tigger32382, jungle cat, snoop381, chez, 12spyders, Beast, The Chris, Liz, JT (two top nine finishes in the last three years), and Jackie also get their Rings this year. A top finish by any of these players could really shake up the rankings.


The Challenge welcomes 18 new players this year. Last year, Amwau became the first rookie to ever win the Challenge, which proved to me that anything truly is possible. These four players may have the best shot to follow in her footsteps:

Auntie Em has spent the last seven seasons watching her husband, Quik Picks, endure the ups and downs of this tourney, but this year she has struck out on her own. When I told Senor Wences that his big sister had entered the field he said, "She'll be stiff competition for sure . . . but not for Senor Wences." Who better than big sis to cork this braggadocio?

JKrejcarek has spent her whole life as a sports fan and teaching people how to spell and pronounce Krejcarek, so you know she's battle-tested. She has her beloved Badgers getting upset by Vanderbilt in the second round. We'll see if this lack of faith helps or hurts her this year.

Theodore Broosevelt is a Michigan alum and soon-to-be Wisconsin alum, and he apparently has a lot more (blind?) faith in his teams than does Ms. Krejcarek. He has the Wolverines and the Badgers both advancing to the Elite 8 by upsetting the #1 seeds in their respective regions. Will these picks prove to be a big stick he can use to beat the competition, or will it be a rough ride for Mr. Broosevelt?

Finally, Scott T has promised to make it count.

Lost Sheep Return

As the good shepherd of this tournament, I am happy to welcome Doc Love, The Silver Fox, and Diagnosticator back into the Chippens flock.

Doc Love competed in 2005 and 2007, but since then he has been filling in teeth rather than filling in brackets. The shepherd is smiling brightly at his return, but the rest of you might not be: Doc Love has an 11th place finish to his credit in 2007 and could do even better this year.

The Silver Fox recorded a 30th place finish in 2005, but has since chosen to work on his cornhole game (a.k.a. "bags" in certain parts of the country). Having perfected that sport (no one can work a cornhole like this guy), he has returned this year.

Also back with us is the Diagnosticator, who competed in 2005 and 2006. Anyone who knows the Diagnosticator knows that this guy can really pick.

Good luck to everybody this year! I will be updating the scores as close to real-time as possible throughout the day. 

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