Bracket Challenge Winner: Meredith Shiner

That's right, friends, as if you don't get enough of me on a weekly basis, I have the honor and privilege of writing to you in my full, unadulterated obnoxious glory as the winner of the first annual Sports Blog Bracket Challenge. Man, this can't be what my editor had in mind when he drew this thing up. Sorry, Ben.

Before we begin, I'd like to thank the academy, my family and friends, my fellow sports writers who berated me endlessly for my love of the Big Ten, Tom Izzo and the Mighty Spartans of Michigan State, my strong Midwestern roots, and lastly—but surely not least—myself, without whom I could not have beaten your sad and sorry Sports Blog reading behinds so brilliantly. Damn, winning feels good.

This victory—an 110-point drubbing over my nearest opponent that placed me in the 99.5 percentile of the more than five million brackets on—has been eight years in the making.  As we all know, 2001 was the last time Duke won a national championship. What you might not know, however, is that 2001 was also the first year I won a March Madness pool. At the ripe age of 14, I handily beat all the lame middle-aged men who worked at my dad's office and pocketed a cool $220. This just goes to show that age does not necessitate wisdom, though, as this year, all I will walk away with is this pointless, self-aggrandizing blog post and my pride. Both of which mean very little to a girl who has yet to find gainful employment for next year and could have used the cash for the Save-Meredith-Shiner-from-Living-in-a-Box fund.  Sorry, Dad.

Speaking of employment, if you happen to work for ESPN and are reading this, I'd like to think you should hire me. And considering I beat out 81 other folks for blog space I can get at anytime, I will pretend this is a huge opportunity and exploit it to tell you why:

1) Because with my 1560 points, I beat all of your "experts," from anyone and everyone named Mike to the Sports Guy to fellow Dukie Jay Bilas to the entire cast of Around the Horn. Unless I missed something poring through their entries, none of said experts penciled Michigan State in their Final Fours.

This is not to say there isn't a ton of luck involved in filling out a "good" bracket. There is. But, seriously, not one analyst had this team going to Detroit? Michigan State featured the Big Ten Player of the Year, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and won the conference, which despite all the hatred, was the second-toughest this season according to the RPI. When the Spartans took down my home state Fighting Illini March 1, I called my aforementioned father to say that Michigan State was absolutely a Final Four team. And I am some rando unathletic blonde chick who hasn't picked up a basketball since sophomore year in high school.

What can I say? I call 'em like I see 'em. And I hate to discount a 2-seed coached by a man who has taken every senior to a Final Four in his tenure with a program. End of story.

2) Because, as you already can tell, I will fight tooth-and-nail against the ESPN East Coast Bias™. Just ask the slew of kids from New York and New Jersey with whom I've worked in my time at The Chronicle (where I've racked up almost 200 bylines!). I am insufferable.

Aside from Michael Wilbon, your network is woefully devoid of Midwestern voices. Jay Mariotti, who is notoriously dismissive of all things within a 500-mile radius of Chicago and no longer has a position at an accredited newspaper, does not count in this calculation.

In the name of diversity, you must consider a nice Caucasian girl from Duke.

3) Because I've got better hair than Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and Bilas combined.

In conclusion, I look forward to next season when two of the nation's top three teams will be from the Big Ten, when Duke will take down North Carolina in Cameron for the first time since 2005 and when I will finish dead last in the ESPN office pool.



P.S. Boom goes the dynamite. In my four years, I've always wanted to write that but never had the opportunity. Now I can graduate in peace.


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