The thing to remember is that The Classical Prognostic-achiever Challenge was never about the tiny, slightly stained game-worn Norfolk State shorts. It had never been about the tiny, slightly stained game-worn Norfolk State shorts. It was about so much more than that, always, from the first tip until the last moment of Kentucky's totally inevitable and yet not at all predicted by everyone in the bracket challenge victory.
And yet, all that said and bearing in mind that it was never about the tiny et cetera, only one of the 173 people in the inaugural Prognostic-achiever Challenge is going to get the tiny, slightly stained game-worn Norfolk State shorts. His name is Kevin Slane, and he beat everyone, and he is a champion. At this particular thing.
Although it was close. Slane's "Boeheim Come and He Wan' Go Home" bracket earned as many points, and one fewer correct prediction, than Jason Hill, whose "Kneel Before Zod" bracket was bumped to second place by a tie-break that I honestly don't remember setting up. It's worth noting that super-commenter and overall friend of the program @syourh called this tie-break well before the title game, in the fine-grain statistical updates he sent me throughout the tournament. He also made this awesome but very literal visual representation of the Sweet 16 game beteween the Baylor Bears against the Xavier Musketeers. Pretty solid dude, this guy.
Anyway, Hill was still our highest-finishing Classical contributor—he wrote the clean-up bit on Reasons To Be Mad Part One, back on the first day of the tournament—but he had some (surprisingly?) fierce competition. Certainly not from my Belmont-positive self—I finished in 61st place despite picking the eventual winner, so there's definitely that—but from Classical founding member and chief smoking-cigarettes-incredibly-quickly consultant Tim Marchman, whose "Beilein's Incipient Embolism" bracket snuck in at number three, and from Benjamin Polk, whose "Dying on the Outside" came in 10th overall.
There were two brackets that mentioned godbody Providence handle-beast God Shammgod; I think GodShammgodheadsilo probably had the better name. There were numerous brackets that referenced either Papa John Schnatter or Donald Sterling in what was clearly an attempt—successful, clearly—to take me off my game by making me sputter out 1,100 words on one or the other. There was an entry named F. Murray State-braham, and I am pretty sure that was the best name, although there was plenty of competition. (This parenthetical salute goes to Tom Keiser's "White Chocolate Black Heart" for its nod to one of Clint Eastwood's least-essential films, and for making me laugh) Shoals and Tomas Rios didn't finish filling out their brackets. So pretty much as expected, but fun all the same.
How did Slane mange to hold off all these worthy competitors, and also me? He was kind enough to share his methodology via email. "I started off by hypothetically advancing all four 1-seeds. Then I swapped in Kansas, because picking all 1 seeds is for squares and ESPN studio analysts, and I thought the Jayhawks were the strongest 2-seed in the field," he wrote. Then he wrote some other things, and then at the end he wrote, prophetically, "Hopefully, I'll be able to console myself in a pair of bulge-enhancing Norfolk State shorts if things break my way next weekend." Just because he is kind enough to share his methodology doesn't mean I'm anywhere near that mature or generous. I know that I'm far more likely to follow the methodology that competitor/writer Brent Cox described as: "You know, like read the NYT sports section on the day after Selection Sunday, then pick half your upsets out of spite and half out of the recognition that the universe takes pleasure in fucking you over." But I'm still keeping Slane's secret formula for myself, because I am bitter and because it is my heart and because dude stole my shorts, fair and square. I'll see you all next year, from above the clouds.
(Also, as a friend of the very tall Jason Hill, I can tell you that it's a very good thing he didn't win the shorts. And to all the friends of Kevin Slane: whatever parts or components of this guy are revealed by those shorts, it's as much his fault for knowing his stuff as it is mine for sending him shorts that make hiding said stuff nearly impossible.)