Our 25th Bracket Fiasco champion has his roommate to thank

Fiasco winner John Mitchell. (Photo courtesy of J. Mitchell)

John Mitchell, our winner. (Photo courtesy of J. Mitchell)

The 25th edition of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco was won by a 23-year-old college student smart enough to pick with precision and pliant enough to yield to friendly persuasion. John Mitchell wanted to pick North Carolina to win the Midwest Regional, but roommate Ricky Staebler happens to be a Kansas fan. Staebler’s lobbying carried not just the day but the whole darn Fiasco.

“I had to change it around because of the grief he gave me,” Mitchell said Monday. “That was the biggest toss-up to me. Outside influence made the biggest difference.”

Of 5,174 Fiasco entrants, five picked the correct Final Four. Mitchell prevailed on the second tiebreaker, tabbing 11 of the Sweet 16 correctly. This marks the first time since 2009 that any Fiasco participant has nailed the Final Four, which goes to show the difference not having a Butler or a VCU can make.

Mitchell lives in Powder Springs and set to finish college at Kennesaw State after attending Valdosta State. He’s a graduate of McEachern High, and he played football and wrestled his first two years there. Then he got a job at Kohl’s, and that was the end of his athletic career.

Which isn’t to say he stopped watching sports. He knows his basketball. (He describes himself as a Georgia fan, but the Bulldogs were a non-starter in this NCAA tournament.) “I know it’s a bandwagon thing,” Mitchell said, “but I love [Kentucky coach John] Calipari and the kind of players he brings in … With Anthony Davis and [Michael] Kidd-Gilchrist, they have a dominating squad. They’re my pick. I’m riding them all the way to the championship.”

Not that he regards Louisville, which the Wildcats will face in the semifinal, as a walkover. “I like [coach Rick] Pitino. I like [point guard] Peyton Siva. And their center [Gorgui Dieng] is a rebounding, blocking machine. I don’t know about everybody else, but I wanted to see a Kentucky-Louisville matchup … I would probably pick Louisville over everybody else.”

Our runnerup is Chuck Hagenbaugh, 49, who lives in Winder and works for Convergent Media Systems in Lawrenceville. He entered the Fiasco for a fundamental reason: Unlike other online contests and office pools, it’s free. “I don’t watch a lot of basketball because my daughter [Ashley, who's the goalkeeper for Winder-Barrow High] is into soccer,” Hagenbaugh said.

It should be noted that Hagenbaugh is one of the few not picking Kentucky to win it all. He likes  Louisville to upset the Wildcats and then lose to Ohio State. “They look hungry enough,” Hagenbaugh said of the Buckeyes, and he happens to be a Buckeye himself. He’s from Akron.

Our champ receives a $1,000 Kroger gift card — “That’s something everyone can use,” Mitchell said — and both our winner and runner-up will get the traditional Final Four sweatshirt/hoodie. At least in prizes, our Fiasco has come a long way from its inaugural run, when the prize was a CBS Sports ballcap. Speaking of which …

The greatest regret I’ve had in our 25 Fiasco years was in not being able to interview our first winner. In the attempt to play long-deferred catch-up ball, I gave him a call Monday. Lou Ricke, now 68 but still living in Woodstock, still enters every year, and he even had the column hailing his 1988 victory made into a plaque.

Sad to say, Ricke didn’t do so well this year. He’s from Sharon, Kans., and he always goes heavy on Midwestern teams. (His ‘88 triumph was paved by the Final Four runs of Kansas and Oklahoma from the league then known as the Big Eight.) He got Kansas again this time, but he whiffed on Wichita State winning the South. For the record, Ricke likes Kansas to reach the final and believes the Jayhawks would have a real shot against Kentucky.

Also for the record: I did try to call Ricke  in 1988. But he worked for the Georgia Department of Revenue — the tax folks. “I got a lot of messages in those days,” Ricke said, “and most of them weren’t pleasant. It wasn’t until I saw you’d written about me that I thought, ‘So that’s what that was about.’ ”

Over 25 years, we’ve had a total of 53,236 entrants, and this wasn’t the first time the Fiasco was won (or lost) by someone who, for whatever reason, changed his/her mind. Regarding his Jayhawk-touting roommate, Mitchell was asked if he’d split his thousand dollar’s worth of groceries with Staebler.

“Oooh,” he said. “I don’t know about that.”

Yet again, I’d like to say thanks to all the folks here at the ol’ AJC — Cynthia Daniels-Dubose, Drue Miller, Emily Merwin, Tracy Brown and Ray Cox — who made the contest run smoothly, and thanks to all who’ve entered this or any of our 25 years. And it’s true what they say: Time does fly when you’re having a Fiasco.


73 comments Add your comment

Rickster

March 26th, 2012
2:13 pm

Congrats to John. Kudos to me?

Mark Bradley

March 26th, 2012
2:18 pm

Indeed, Rickster.

You’re very quick off the mark at the beginning of the work week, I should note.

Rickster

March 26th, 2012
2:19 pm

(You know, wearing the “hoodie” thing might not not be wise at the moment.)

Beast from the East

March 26th, 2012
2:25 pm

What do I win for 1005th place?

Congrats to Mr. Mitchell!

CONservative Johnson

March 26th, 2012
2:27 pm

I guess I didn’t read the rules. I didn’t know it was about getting the Final 4 correct (rather than the complete tourney).

Goldenrod

March 26th, 2012
2:27 pm

So you’re telling me the BIG BAD SEC only has one team in the Final 4? What a joke! Stick to football guys.

UGAg couldn’t even make the NIT, that’s how pathetic that cesspool is.

We all know Kentucky Lies & Cheats and will soon have their titles vacated. Calapari=SCUM just like the rest of the SEC.

Mark Bradley

March 26th, 2012
2:29 pm

That’s the way our little contest has always been, CONservative. I just liked it better this way, and I’ve resisted the urge to change.

George Stein

March 26th, 2012
2:30 pm

Don’t wear the hoodie in Florida.

BigA

March 26th, 2012
2:48 pm

Who is your college Goldenrod?

Go For 2

March 26th, 2012
2:48 pm

Mark: any chance this century you address the issue of Georgia Basketball badly lagging Florida despite the talent pool in state or will you continue to let the program ride (like Georgia Football)? Also, I loved your assessment of the top 5 first round upsets at the begging of the tourney: You left out both Santa Clara over Arizona AND Hampton over Iowa St. (15/2 games)…nice research Mark

Aaron

March 26th, 2012
2:54 pm

Damn 413th. Gotta move up.

Bill

March 26th, 2012
3:04 pm

I was so disgusted with my picks I deleted my bracket bracket after the first weekend when Missouri doomed me.

SAL

March 26th, 2012
3:23 pm

It’s all about $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Goldenrod

March 26th, 2012
3:28 pm

I don’t have a college, I am a proud alumni of THE Georgia Institute of Technology and a proud member of the ACC where basketball is king!

SimpleDawg

March 26th, 2012
3:43 pm

Goldenrod…..and there are how many ACC teams in the Final Four?

1 SEC, 1 BIGXII, 1 BIG EAST, 1 BIG10……

Coach Cal Rules

March 26th, 2012
3:43 pm

Listen here Goldenrod, how many teams from the ACC made the Final Four? What’s that sound? Crickets?

GT is a joke on the basketball court as well as the football field.

GO BIG BLUE!

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
3:48 pm

Goldenrod=Jealous douchebag

Kentucky went to the Final Four last year and it was not vacated.

Get some new material Einstein.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:10 pm

@dawginlex-It usually takes a few years to catch up to Coach Cal, but don’t worry, rest assured, he’ll have moved on by that time

Red Rob

March 26th, 2012
4:12 pm

To my boy Big John for taking home first prize!!!

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
4:19 pm

ACE

Explain to me what Cal did at Memphis and UMASS?

I’ll save you time

UMASS-Camby hired an agent

Memphis-rose got someone to take the SAT for him

now you tell me you really believe Cal told them to do those things?

If you do, you are dumber than a bag of hammers.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:26 pm

@dawginlex-You seem a little sensitive. The truth brings out the worst in people. Where there is smoke there is …no fire?

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:28 pm

In 3 years it will come out that Mr Unibrow didn’t even take the entire “Introduction to Basic Cooking” 101 class

Joe Dog

March 26th, 2012
4:28 pm

Hey Goldenrod,

You are an alumnus, regardless of the institution, you and your classmates are alumni. You are an alumnus of THE Georgia Institute of Technology and you’re also stupid.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:29 pm

In the entire history of the NCAA how many coaches have had 2 final fours from two different schools stripped away? Just wondering

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:32 pm

The Kentucky people know if he wasn’t their head coach he’d be a dirty cheater, so whatever.

BigA

March 26th, 2012
4:34 pm

HAHA Goldenrod…How many teams do the ACC have in the Final Four???

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
4:34 pm

ACE

More spewing but no facts to back up your spew

Typical hater troll.

Uninformed
Loser
Jealous

My kid is a student at UK and sees the players all the time on campus and in classes so take your high and mighty BS and shove it

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:36 pm

The ACC only had 1 in the final 8 and 2 in the sweet 16

TybeeDawg

March 26th, 2012
4:40 pm

Hey Rod,

In 15 of past 22 football, men’s & women’s basketball and baseball championships, the SEC has had a team finish in the top 4 nationally. ACC ain’t even close, especially not gt.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:40 pm

@dawginlex-Typical apologist Rose colored glasses wearing, flunkie, blindly following the piper

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:41 pm

dawginlex-How would you feel about Coach Cal if he was @Memphis? Honestly

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
4:42 pm

ACE

give me facts

Show me a link that says Calipari did something wrong.

Are you stupid enough to beleive that the NCAA didn’t try to find something on him?

Just spewing your hater agenda and your opinion is not enough.

It really must suck to be you

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
4:42 pm

I wouldn’t care about him because he would not be up here

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:43 pm

or better yet if he was @ Louisville?

Buckeye

March 26th, 2012
4:44 pm

We’re a fencing school. Just took the NCAA’s!

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
4:45 pm

He is not anywhere else. He is at UK

Pitino wishes he had never left

Especially since he banged Karen Sypher on the table at Porcini’s, got her pregnant and paid for an abortion.

Cal is married with 3 kids. Never divorced. He has never been found guilty of having anything to do with the situations at UMASS and Memphis. Just 2 kids that messed up.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:48 pm

@dawginlex-The fact that you make this an attack on me speaks volumes about the type of person you are.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:49 pm

Actually Ohio State has more varsity sports than any other university.

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:50 pm

And they, unlike Kentucky, have a football team

anonymous

March 26th, 2012
4:52 pm

Mark! I just found my long “lost” bracket underneath the sofa cushions. It’s perfect picks, all the way through. Can I still mail it in?

ACE

March 26th, 2012
4:52 pm

I agree about Petino on both accounts.

DawginLex

March 26th, 2012
4:55 pm

ACE

I could care less what you think about me

But your high and mighty crapola spewed about UK without any basis in fact shows your lack of intelligence so I guess we are even

Go shove it

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

March 26th, 2012
5:09 pm

Well, I guess being No. 1,971 ain’t bad for being a first-timer, huh? So when do I get my Rookie of the Year prize?

ACE

March 26th, 2012
5:16 pm

@dawgin-Well said. For a mouth breather

Beast from the East

March 26th, 2012
6:24 pm

ACE,
Do you speak just as badly about Coach Paul Johnson at GT? His team had to vacate the ACC title from a few years back, just like Calipari’s ex teams had to vacate the Final 4’s. I can’t stand UK basketball, as I’m a Gator fan, but let’s be fair here. I honestly believe that if Calipari had done anyhting wrong, he’d be in the same boat with Bruce Pearl…looking for work outside of the NCAA realm. Hate him because he out recruits everyone or because he’s one of the top 10 active coaches, but to call him a cheater is just BS. PROVE IT!

Paul in NH

March 26th, 2012
6:28 pm

Congrats to Mr. Mitchell on picking all of the FF correctly. He finished 86 places ahead of me – and about 1000 ahead of Mark B.

Beast from the East

March 26th, 2012
6:49 pm

Mark,
Heard anything on Martin to South Carolina? If it’s true then the SEC just got a little tougher.

Red Stick

March 26th, 2012
7:16 pm

Wow Mark your bracket really stunk this year. I thought mine was bad at 1,138.

Red Stick

March 26th, 2012
7:23 pm

Beast, The State newspaper in Columbia is reporting that Martin will take the South Carolina coach.

That’s a really good hire for them.

Red Stick

March 26th, 2012
7:24 pm

I meant he will take the SC job.