The best defense is a Good Offense
Vassili Kyrkos takes on perennial
sports contender Harry Flawd.
John - not the GM - Coussis can't
pull a Coussis vs Samantha Berk.
After five years of increasing attendance, March Madness
had finally broken the 50-person ceiling in 2011. Like all
streaks, however, it's hard to grab the brass ring year after
year, and something had to eventually give. So, in 2012, we couldn't
break half a century again, and were forced to settle for only
our fifth-highest attendance ever.
Certainly there was nothing to complain about with the level
of competition. The West Regional kicked off in its traditional
Tuesday evening slot, with a healthy 27 teams ranging from the
1960s to 2009. Terry Coleman managed to draft top seed, UCLA
73. As usual, having the top team was more a curse than a blessing,
and Terry got through only two rounds before being dispatched
by Roger Taylor and his upset-minded Utah 98 team, who had also
knocked off Ken Gutermuth's Houston 82 team in the previous round.
In fact, the upsets outnumbered wins by the favorites so much
that you could easily imagine the criticism of the tournament
committee on sports talk radio the next morning. The closest
thing to a high seed that advanced deep into the event were Harry
Flawd's #6 UConn 09 team and Derek Landel's UCLA 70 squad, ranked
4th. When those two teams met in the semis, it meant that one
lower seed from the other bracket would, at the very least, make
the regional final.
While Derek was upholding the honor of UCLA by winning over
Harry, Tom Browne was moving through that other bracket - we
can't say quietly, because Tom was taking no prisoners. He had
selected the infamous UNLV 77 squad, which featured scorers at
virtually every position, along with the dreaded 'C' defense.
A typical score for one of Tom's games in this heat was 123-114,
but he outscored every team he came up against. After beating,
among others, Bruce Monnin - he of the multiple MMS titles online
as well as an over-the board championship - Tom then outlasted
Sean McCulloch's equally high-scoring New Mexico State 70 squad
to meet Derek in the regional final.
It looked as though Tom's momentum would finally fade away.
After all, there had never been a C-rated defensive team to make
a regional final, much less a Final Four. But despite every defensive
move Derek could attempt, Tom always seemed to have the answer,
and the bold UNLV hoopsters played their way effervescently into
the Final Four. You could almost see the old Shark chewing on
his towel in glee...
After the wildfire of upsets in the first heat, the second
heat, featuring teams from the Midwest, was almost rigidly predictable
by comparison. Jeff Mullet seemed to spit in the eye of the curse,
as he steered his top-seeded Cincinnati 61 stars all the way
to the regional final. Among his victims were Peter Stein (more
on Pete later), former champ John Coussis, and 5-time champ Bruce
Reiff; when the latter result was official, you could practically
hear the shouts of glee from the registration desk, since Don
Greenwood was unable to attend this heat in person.
Meanwhile, in the other bracket, Vassili Kyrkos became the
latest convert to MMS to make a big splash. While Vassili is
known to many for his Euro prowess - particularly for his two
championships in Alhambra - he is also an avid sports gamer.
By beating Harry and Bruce Monnin along the way to losing a close
semifinal versus Chris Bauch, it shows he is also a good sports
gamer (and a good sport, which I can personally attest to).
So, the second heat came down to a couple of literally old-school
teams: Mullet's Cincy from the 60s, and Bauch's Indiana 53. Ironically,
the IU 1953 team was one of the 'new' teams I had made for this
year's event. I had gone back and researched game-by-game to
come up with a revised rating for a team that, in the past, had
been typecast as an old, slow team from the prehistoric days
of peach baskets. In fact, IU 53 only lost a few games in real
life on last-second baskets, and it was one of the original fast-break
teams in college basketball, with an excellent, athletic defense
and decent size. It would be a good matchup for the team from
Ohio with the big scorers.
And as it turned out, the Hoosiers were able to maintain an
advantage on the key positions. Don Schlundt at Center was a
scoring machine for Indiana, and Charles Kraak kept Cincy's top
gun, Bob Wiesenhahn, in check just enough for Chris to steer
his 2nd-ranked squad to a berth in the Final Four.
Although Heat 3 is technically the South heat, it is affectionately
known as the Kentucky Regional, because of the vast number of
featured teams from UK and Louisville - nine teams out of 28.
Perhaps buoyed by the 'home field' advantage, the majority of
these won their opening round. None went farther than Louisville
2012, one of the many new teams featured this year. Coach Dave
Platnik's luck, however, finally ran out in the region final,
as his overachieving kids were no match for the balanced attack
of Paul Gaberson's 1983 NC State team. Paul had the lowest-ranked
team to make the Final Four with a 17th seed, more proof than
ever that the brackets are as balanced as one could ask for.
Attendance for the last heat invariably drops off a little,
as the number of events on Friday explodes, and the inevitable
conflicts for folks who've advanced to elimination rounds of
other events intrudes on the scene. Still, we had a respectable
field of 19 coaches looking for that last chance to make the
The competition was fierce. Of the seven former champs in the
heat, four didn't make it out of the second round. Marvin Birnbaum
managed to - almost - defend the honor of top-seeded teams everywhere
by taking his Maryland 74 team to the regional final, only to
lose to Pete Stein. Given how closely this mirrored the tourney
fortunes of the real-life Maryland team, maybe it's a blessing
that neither Don Greenwood nor Debbie Bell was around to see
Now down to the money rounds, we were guaranteed to have a
new champion. Chris Bauch hadn't made a Final Four in years,
but he knew how to get the most out of his team. If anything,
you could say Chris was the favorite to win the whole thing.
But Tom, who had been an underdog in every single game thus far
in the tournament, was not intimidated. As soon as Tom got the
chance, out came the Run N' Gun strategy, and triple-digit scoring
wasn't far behind. Chris pulled out all of the defense cards
he could, but even the mighty Schlundt couldn't stem the tide
of double-digit scorers on every single position on Tom's roster,
and a few draws from the oxygen mask later, UNLV was in the title
In the other national semifinal, Paul Gaberson put his talents
gleaned from card-driven strategy games to good use, but his
dice failed to keep pace. Pete was able to build up a lead by
halftime, and pulled away in the second period to place him in
his first Final since 1993, when he lost to Terry Coleman in
what both fondly recall as one of the best games they ever played.
Could Pete stop the UNLV juggernaut? Pete's Louisville 75
squad didn't feature big scorers. On the other hand, it had a
deep bench and by far the best defense that Tom had yet faced.
Still, Tom had also come close to a crown, losing in the final
of the 2011 PBeM March Madness event, and he was determined to
make the most of his chance. As the Final progressed, Tom scored
well, but not exponentially, and Pete's guards, particularly
Junior Bridgeman, tossed in enough buckets to keep it close.
In fact, the game actually came down to the last position. For
a brief moment, it looked like the game might go to overtime,
but when all of the timeouts were taken, Tom had won his first
MMS title. And with a 'C' defense, no less! Somewhere, John Thompson
is shedding more than a few tears.
As for me, this is one of the most fun tournaments I've ever
run, and the players seemed to agree. Most of the games were
close, the heats ran briskly, and everyone seemed to like the
new team cards. As always, I appreciate everyone's feedback and
sportsmanship. Regardless of whether we break 50 players next
year, I'm sure we'll have another good time - although for sheer
unpredictability, it will be hard to top MMS 2012. See
you next year!
The Chairman draws Carrie Lewis still
looking for her return trip to the Final Four.
Pete Stein and Tom Browne guarantee
a new champion in the title game.
Play By Email 2012-13
The largest ever field of 49 players signed up to contest
the ninth annual BPA March Madness PBeM tournament. A
new champion was crowned, as Derek Landel earned a March Madness PBeM championship plaque to compliment his 2007 WBC championship.
Derek's 16th seeded Duke 1978 team reached the Final Four with
a 23 point win over Kevin Wojtaszczyk's Pittsburgh 2003 in his
first game. Next came a 13-point win over Dennis Nicholson's
North Carolina 2012, a 9-point victory over Buck Karpowitz's
Dayton 1967 and a 9-point triumph over Vassili Kyrkos' Houston
1987 squad. Derek's narrow escape came in a 90-89 win over Steve
Caler's Illinois 2005, followed by a 7-point win over Jeremy
Billones' Michigan State 1979 to earn his trip to the championship
Runner-up Ken Gutermuth's 50th seeded Houston 1982 team was the
underdog in every game it played in the tournament. Despite
that, he had a fairly easy road to the championship matchup.
His first victim was Steve Caler's Stanford 2008 squad, which
fell by 14 points. This was followed by a 7-point win over Terry
Coleman's NC Charlotte 1977, a 23-point walloping of Max Jamelli's
New Mexico State 1970 and a solid 9-point victory over Dennis
Nicholson's Jacksonville 1970. A tight 5-point victory over
Peter Stein's Utah 1998 sent the underdogs into the championship
The first half of the Final saw the 50th-seeded Houston Cougars
take an early lead. Clyde "The Glide" Drexler was exceptional
and was a big part of the quick start that the Cougars enjoyed,
netting nine points in the half. Despite the lead, Cougars coach
Guy Lewis found himself ejected midway through the 1st half!
His game plan stayed in place though, which was to Double Team
two of Duke's top three scorers. This worked for the most part
as Spanarkel and Banks were limited to just 11 points between
them. However, PG John Harrell stepped up for Duke, as he had
the entire tournament, and scored 10 points off the Double Teams.
When the dust cleared Houston found themselves ahead with a 40-37
lead. The clock had not struck midnight yet on their Cinderella
The Cougars kept their foot on the gas early in the second half,
increasing the lead to nine points. Finally in desperation mode,
Duke coach Bill Foster decided to play some Tight Man To Man
to attempt to cut into the Houston lead. Timeouts were then swapped
over Jim Spanarkel's pivotal 2nd half performance. In the end,
Spanarkel was able to get Duke back to within five. Most importantly,
this left both coaches without any more timeouts. Duke's bench
took over the game midway through the 2nd half with a 14-3 run
claiming the Blue Devils their first lead of the game at 66-60.
Houston wasn't done though. Drexler once again stepped up,
cutting the Duke lead to 67-65. The final matchup was destined
to be Akeem "Not Yet The Dream" Olajuwon vs Mike "GMan"
Gminski. The Cougars brought in an offensive ringer for Akeem
down the stretch. This made the final roll an A (Landel's GMan)
versus a B (Gutermuth's Ringer). With a slim two point lead
this one was going to go wherever the final die roll decided.
Lady luck shined on Duke again and the GMan ended up outscoring
the Ringer 11-4. Duke would be crowned champions on this day
with a 78-69 win in a game that was worthy of the big stage it
was played on. The MVP of the game was undoubtedly Mike Gminski
While Gminski was the star of the championship game, the Final
Four Most Outstanding Player is given to champion Duke 1978's
left guard Jim Spanarkel. With his B rating, he averaged 21
points per game in the Final Four, including 29 points in the
semifinal win over 1978 Michigan State, outscoring Magic Johnson
by 11 in his team's 7-point win. Here is the rest of the All-Tournament
Team as chosen by a panel of eight of the tournament participants:
All Tournament First Team:
Center: Artis Gilmore (Jacksonville 1970) - A Rating: 5 games
- 23.8 ppg
Left Forward: Randy Foye (Villanova 2006) - B Rating: 3 games
- 21.0 ppg
Right Forward: Clyde Drexler (Houston 1982) - C Rating: 6 games
- 18.2 ppg
Left Guard: Jimmy Collins (New Mexico State 1970) - A Rating:
4 games - 26.3 ppg
Right Guard: D.J. Augustin (Texas 2008) - B Rating : 4 games
- 26.0 ppg
Bench: Utah 1998 - B Rating: 5 games - 22.0 ppg
The tournament will be restarted this coming October. Come join
us in determining next year's PBeM champion of the BPA March