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with or without you.

An NCAA tournament without Coach K and Dook? Eh. We’ll manage.

The Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) without you? That would be a shame.

But you’re in luck, boys and girls! Unlike years past, the first round of the NCAA tournament doesn’t start until Friday, so instead of this post being a last call of sorts, it is your 24-hour(ish) reminder: Git yer pix in soon.

Important things to remember: It’s free to enter. I just need your final four, your semi-finalists, your champion and a title game final score, to use as a tiebreaker. I’ll need those, submitted via your favorite social media platform (there will be bonus points* for anyone who submits and entry via TikTok), by noon Friday. And if you win, boys and girls, you’ll enjoy $50 of food and beverages from the legendary Piper’s Pub on me (or fifty American dollars, eligible to be exchanged for goods and services, for you out-of-towners).

There are some more rules and guidelines to keep in mind, but in general you won’t find an easier college hoops pool than FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*). Don’t miss out, kids — get your entries in soon.

*Editor’s note: Bonus points are not actually worth anything.

one year later.

Home away from home.

One year ago today, I sat down at my desk in the newsroom, to start work for the day and to assess what I might need from my cube to make working at home a little more comfortable.

I didn’t need to bring much, I thought — I mean, how long could this thing last?

The newsroom was pretty quiet, as a lot of my colleagues had already begun their stint at their home offices. My boss was in that day, though; I recall telling him as I was pack up to go home that I was going to definitely stay away from the newsroom for two weeks before I would reassess the situation.

Two. Weeks. That’s a funny thing to type now, one year later.

I’ve been back in the newsroom a handful of times since. Once was to box up stuff on my desk for a newsroom decontamination effort. I was forced to work in the newsroom for a few weeks in the summer. That was punishment, I think, for a Facebook post that pointed out … uh … an ethical inconsistency, let’s say … on the part of the then-executive editor; my sentence was cut short when the governor issued a work-form-home order. And when the union’s situation was looking especially dire, I stopped in on a Saturday morning to collect all of my stuff, because I believed at the time that I wouldn’t work in that newsroom, for one reason or another, ever again.

I’m feeling less uncertain about the labor stuff. And as I am halfway vaccinated against the plague, I feel like the darkness has started to lift, just a little.

But for now, I’m still here, at home, looking at the window and desk in our little office. During snowstorm of 2010, I worked at home for a full week — and I hated it.

That’s a funny thing to type now. One year later.

glory days.

Fun NCAA tournament fact: The last time a 13 seed advanced to the tournament’s Sweet 16 was 2012 — when the Ohio Bobcats shocked Michigan in the first round and continued to advance.

The Bobcats’ seed this year? They’re a 13. Look out, Virginia.

Am I suggesting that you pick OU in your entry to Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*)? Ah, probably not — fandom and gambling are different things, and the contest isn’t called Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Sweet Sixteen Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*), because hooboy that would be a lot of extra work for me.

I am suggesting, however, that you make sure you have your FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) picks in soon. Remember: It’s easy. Give me — via the social media messaging channel of your preference — your final four, your championship game contestants and your national champion. Remember also: It costs you zero American dollars to enter. Remember also also: The winner will get a $50 gift card from the legendary Piper’s Pub.

To recap:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Friday.
  • Fifty bucks at Piper’s for the winner.
  • Picking the Bobcats to win the whole thing probably wouldn’t be smart.

let’s get started.

My Bobcats are dancing. My Buckeyes — who are at this moment erasing a 17-point deficit against Illinois in the B1G title game — will be dancing as well. I don’t know what will happen with that game, but I know this: Not too long after it’s over, we’re going get our first look at the NCAA tournament field.

And that, boys and girls, means I’ll be ready to accept your entries for the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*).

But Uncle Crappy, you ask, I’m not totally clear on how FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) works, especially since you haven’t managed to hold these in consecutive years since like 2015.

OK, smartass. Here’s how it’s done.

Find yourself a copy of the bracket. If you can’t manage that, I should probably disqualify you from the FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) right now. Fill it out.

You don’t need to submit to me the entire thing; in fact, I’d rather you didn’t. What I do need is your picks for the Final Four, the championship game and the eventual champion. Here’s a purely hypothetical example of what an entry from this year’s bracket could look like (Note 1: This is NOT my entry. Note 2: These are among the lowest seeds in the tournament; if you want to make this your entry, feel free, but do so understanding the risk of being Blutarskied):

Final Four: Cleveland State vs. Appalachian State; Loyola-Chicago vs. Iona

Championship game: Cleveland State vs. Iona

Champion: Cleveland State (71-65)

How do I figure out who wins? You get two points for picking a correct Final Four team, four points for a correct semi-finalist and six points for a correct national championship pick. Assuming I can add correctly (and there is no guarantee of that, boys and girls), the entry with the highest point total is our winner.

And yes, there is a tie-breaker and, yes, as we’ve seen several times, tiebreakers are important. When you submit your pick, please also include your projected score for the championship game. If it’s necessary, the entry whose total score is closest to the real thing will be our winner. Note: We do NOT follow the Price Is Right rule; the closest total, over or under, wins.

And the usual reminders:

  • There is no entry fee.
  • I need your picks (via Twitter, FB, text, email or any other communication method available) by noon Friday.
  • We’re playing for a $50 gift card from Piper’s Pub (or, if you’re out of town, plain old fifty American dollars).
  • This is the easiest hoops pool you’ll enter all year.

My Buckeyes are making it a game. We’ll know the tournament field in about an hour from right now, And. Officially. FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) entries are open. I hope to hear from you soon.

we pretty much gotta, right?

Wanna know what age can do to a person? A couple weeks ago I mentioned to Mrs. Crappy that I was considering the resurrection of AUCNFFC this year. As we chatted about this, we tried to remember what year it would be, which eventually turned into this issue: Neither of us could remember why I didn’t do the pool last spring.

Hey. It’s not nice to laugh at old people.

Anyway. March madness is back. So let’s do this. Here, boys and girls, is your formal announcement of the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*), or what we’ll refer to as FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*).

If you’ve done this before you know the drill. And if you haven’t (or if you need a refresher)? I present … the drill:

  • Once the tournament field is set on Sunday, find yourself a copy of the bracket. If you can’t manage that, I should probably disqualify you from the FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) right now. Print it and fill it out, using whatever method you prefer.
  • After consulting your bracket, pick the four teams — one from each region — that you think will win the regional championships and travel to the Final Four in Indy.
  • After consulting your bracket again, pick the two teams you think will win the national semi-final games on April 3.
  • Consult your bracket once more, and pick the team from your semi-finalists who will win the title game April 5.
  • How do I figure out who wins? You get two points for picking a correct Final Four team, four points for a correct semi-finalist and six points for a correct national championship pick. Assuming I can add correctly (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), the entry with the highest point total is our winner.
  • Yes, there is a tie-breaker and, yes, as we’ve seen several times, tiebreakers are important. When you submit your pick, please also include your projected score for the championship game. If it’s necessary, the entry whose total score is closest to the real thing will be our winner. Note: We do NOT follow the Price Is Right rule; the closest total, over or under, wins.

Still confused? I’ll be back on Monday with examples, along with a series of nagging posts to make sure I get as many entries as possible. Until then, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • One thing to make sure you don’t do: Send me money to enter. As has always been the case, FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) is free.
  • In the first four years of the contest, we were competing for cheesy trinkets and I usually included a disclaimer that our FABULOUS PRIZES weren’t actually fabulous. And then Chris at Bocktown Beer and Grill blew that out of the water by putting up a gift card to the contest’s winner. As my beloved Bocktowns have since closed, I am once again putting up a similarly Actually Fabulous Prize — a $50 gift card at Piper’s Pub, on Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side. And I make this promise without actually knowing whether Piper’s will continue to offer gift cards in the aftertimes. Whatever. We’ll figure it out. And to be clear about that asterisk in the title: It is meant to serve as a reminder that this whole shebang is funded by me.
  • Note: If you’re an out-of-town contestant, you may opt for the equivalent cash value of the gift card, which is, uh, approximately $50.
  • The tournament’s real games (the ones that used to be called the first-round games) get underway around noon Eastern on Friday, March 19 (yes, you read that correctly — Friday); I’m not a huge stickler, but I’ll need to have your entries by noonish that day for you to be eligible (see the Melo Rule below).
  • How do you enter? Comment. Email. Twitter. DM. Text. Facebook. Carrier pigeon. Please feel free adding whatever commentary you wish regarding how you arrived at your picks; each entry will be listed in a comprehensive post that’ll show up at some point Thursday, not unlike this example from 2019.

And finally, the fine-printy things:

The Juan Rule: As is tradition, Juan, oh he of very little basketball knowledge, will once again be entered against his will, using either the Phil’s Mom Method or, if Phil’s mom isn’t picking this year, the Penny-Flipping Method.

The Melo Rule: Should an unforeseen thing happen with a player, a coach or a booster that might, in your opinion, have an impact on your already-completed entry, fear not. You may tinker as much as you like until I close the entries at noon on the tournament’s opening day.

The Crappy Rule: If I were to come out on top of my own contest (and believe me, boys and girls, there is very little chance of that happening), the Piper’s gift card would be awarded to the next runner up (although I retain full bragging rights, which I would exercise almost daily). Mrs. Crappy, should she remember to get her entry in on time, does her own work and is therefore eligible to win the Piper’s gift card (as long as she uses it to take me to dinner).

To summarize:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Friday.
  • Fifty bucks at Piper’s for the winner.

Have any questions? Let me know. Otherwise, good luck to everyone — especially me Mrs. Crappy.