March 31, 2011
Before the final buzzer sounded last Sunday, 99.9 percent of amateur bracketologists across the globe had already torched their brackets. For the first time in the history of the Big Dance no No. 1 or No. 2 seeds had advanced to the Final Four. The rash of unpredictable upsets made many entries appear slashed and bloodied, leaving a bitter taste in mouths of optimistic prognosticators who two weeks earlier were supremely confident they had submitted a winner.
However, one, out of nearly three million Yahoo! Tourney Pick 'Em submissions, unbelievably basked in glory. …
Related: Buy your Final Four gear here
Unbeknown to many of the approximately 300 students at Jefferson High School outside Salem, Ore., is a humble librarian with unmatched basketball foresight. Not only a master of the Dewey Decimal System and moves on the pitch — she also coaches girls soccer — Diana Inch is the only person in the entire Yahoo! universe to accurately predict all four Final Four teams, an almost impossible task this year. Consider these astonishing facts:
• Only 0.1 percent of entries had VCU in the Final Four.
• Last season's national runner-up, Butler, was advanced to Houston on just 0.6 percent of submissions.
• A mere 4.8 percent of brackets have their champion pick still alive.
• No one forecasted all Sweet 16 teams correctly, though one person drilled 15.
• Not a single person projected the Elite Eight right. And only 38 had seven of the eight.
• An infinitesimal 0.023 percent of entries have both championship participants un-slashed.
• Over 80 percent of entries failed to correctly project a single Final Four team.
• Of the roughly 300,000 people who entered Yahoo!'s second chance game (Projecting the Sweet 16 on), only seven currently remain unblemished.
• Diana is the only person to experience perfection in any round.
Instead of letting her newfound fame swell her head, Diana hopes the increased exposure will draw much-needed attention to her cash-strapped school district, which you can help out, along with other distressed Oregon schools, here.
So, how did she do it? In this exclusive interview with Roto Arcade, the Princess of Pick 'Em reveals her ground-breaking dog/cat strategy, disgust over her pet feline, and why she believed a Shaka special was possible:
RA: Out of roughly 3 million Yahoo! entries, you are the only person to correctly forecast the Final Four. What was your strategy?
Diana: I named this bracket "Di's 711 XV Dogs & Cats" to guide my selections.
I like the numbers 7 and 11, the letters XV (and, although I didn't include it, Q is another favorite letter), and thought that picking teams based primarily based on their seeding numbers and mascots would potentially irritate some of my male sports-obsessed colleagues, especially if my bracket did well (who knew how much madness I would be putting into their March?). Some states I favor (the folks I meet from Michigan have usually been fun-loving, and my birthfather's family might be from there) while other states leave me underwhelmed. I love cheering for underdogs and teams that NEVER GIVE UP, always giving their best efforts no matter the score. In desperation, I sometimes went with the seed *closest* to a 7 or 11, or a team that had an AP ranking that might indicate an edge.
RA: Did you consult any outside sources before submitting your bracket -- industry experts, palm readers, psychic guinea pig?
Diana: Well, most of my consultation came in the form of asking about the various teams' mascots... I asked Bryan Miyagishima, my significant other, and the colleague who last year introduced me to the Yahoo! online tournament, Jeff Rhoades. Bryan is also a librarian at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Ore. (We met on the volleyball court as graduate students while attending the University of Washington's library school — our coed team's name? The Bunheads. Our purpose? Breaking the librarian stereotype!) Jeff teaches social studies, and coaches high school soccer and basketball at Jefferson, Home of the Lions!
Both Bryan and Jeff are knowledgeable about many subjects, but seem to get great joy in talking sports — they would be fun to have on a radio sports program. Any mascots we didn't know, I looked up online. (That's what librarians do, we look things up!) While playing volleyball at a local athletic club on the evening of March 13th, I had picked up a couple paper brackets. Next to each school's name, I noted the mascot and sometimes the team's colors. Some of the mascots were unknown to me, so I had to look those up too. From Aggies to Zips, I still have questions about Buckeyes, Gauchos, Hoyas, The Orange and Volunteers. I admit that I was probably working with an incomplete mascot guide, but I was tired. I do remember jotting down some of the AP rankings on my bright yellow bracket worksheet. That kind of information might have come from me clicking on the team names on the Yahoo! site to assist in selecting my teams.
RA: Do you have a particular allegiance to any school in this year's field? Are you a proud graduate of VCU? What convinced you the Rams were championship material? What about Butler?
Diana: VCU is an awesome 11-seed that I had watched in their play-in game; they impressed me with their teamwork, hustle and skills. The Rams looked tough from the start. Shaka Smart, the VCU coach had his own following (my condolences on the passing of his grandfather), the team played aggressively, PLUS their mascot had FOUR LEGS so was closer to a dog/cat than the Boilermakers, Peacocks, Aggies, Seminoles, Irish and Zips... I had to look up what Boilermakers (not the drink) and Zips were... which is why, in my bracket, VCU totally deserved to be in my Final Four!
As for the Butler Bulldogs (DOG!), they are a skilled and disciplined team, with a classy, tactically sound, young, knowledgeable coach whose mostly reserved countenance reminded me of our high school girls coach. Plus, both Brad Stevens and Jeff Rhoades have four letters in their first names, and seven letters in their last names, 4 + 7 = 11.
Ultimately, I just had a good feeling about the Butler team. Having watched Butler play these last four heart-stopping games, I remember thinking how inspiring it would be to have coach Stevens as a role model for young coaches — he knows his basketball, he's willing to credit his players and assistants with the wins, and he's gracious and empathetic toward his opponents in the postgame interviews. To me, coach Stevens runs a top quality program.
RA: Though it's never happened before in tournament history, you had three No. 16 seeds toppling Goliath (No. 1 seeds). Why?
Diana: DOGS: 16 Boston U Terriers (over Kansas), UNC Asheville Bulldogs (over Pitt) (also has a V in the name);
BIRD vs. SEED 16 UTSA Roadrunners would eat seeds/buckeyes (Ohio St.).
RA: Many of your titled entries laud cats over dogs, yet you picked two teams with canine mascots to reach Houston (UConn and Butler). If the Final Four pans out as you projected, can we assume you'll be a proud husky owner in the near future?
Diana: At first, I only did two full brackets, my D1 and the 711 XV Dogs & Cats. When those looked a mess, it was simple to enter the Second Chance Tournament — where I tried the random picker as well as others. Our cat has not been the best house guest lately, so I might be a bit anti-feline at the moment. Perhaps, next year I'll try putting together brackets that mostly feature birds and bears, claws and horns, or peoples. Or maybe, I'll create "Di's 711 XQVZ Dogs & Cats" bracket. It's made me happy so far.
RA: You have UConn defeating Butler in the championship game. Why the Huskies?
Diana: We like huskies — Bryan and I have been Huskies at the University of Washington and St. Cloud State University, Minn. The UConn mascot has the pleasant face of our almost 14-year-old dog "Z" (short for Z39.50 the International Standard of Operation for Libraries), and our other dog "LC" (short for Library of Congress; no need to fret, we don't have children) has one blue left eye, and one brown eye which is sometimes seen in huskies and other breeds. We got both dogs, two wonderful 45-pound mixed breeds, from the Tri-County Humane Society, and we all have spent quality time on the St. Cloud State University campus — Home of the Huskies — walking and running along the Mississippi River.
Here's how her bracket shook out:
Image courtesy of the AP
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