By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Robert Bauchman was looking for a dark horse.
He told EBS in a phone call that he usually starts paying attention to college basketball as the tournament approaches, and while he read about the University of Connecticut Huskies, he saw a team heating up at the right time. He entered Explore Big Sky’s March Madness Bracket Challenge—open as a free contest to the community and hosted on ESPN.com—under the bracket name “SpanishPeakGolfer” and took the 4-seed Huskies all the way.
UConn was unranked at the beginning of the season, becoming just the seventh team in men’s NCAA basketball history to turn an unranked preseason into a national championship, according to ESPN. Bauchman’s bracket, centered around the Huskies, was itself a dark horse—SpanishPeakGolfer eventually bested the 28 brackets submitted in the EBS group, but Bauchman didn’t break into the top five until the Elite Eight when UConn, Texas and Creighton lifted him into first place.
Bolstered by his unlikely champion, Bauchman’s bracket finished in the 98.9th percentile of all brackets on ESPN.com.
“I was like, ‘wow,’” he said, with regards to his outstanding performance. “Besides picking UConn all the way, I didn’t think the rest of my bracket was that good. I think I got lucky.”
Only 2.4% of ESPN brackets had UConn cutting the net. Just one other EBS contestant took UConn, but NikeBoy135 15’s overall bracket was weaker.
Bauchman said he enjoyed reading the bracket names on the leaderboard published in the EBS Town Crier Newsletter, but he almost forgot about his own EBS bracket.
“I checked before the Final Four, and I was like, ‘oh wow, I ended up picking UConn,” he recalled. He told his kids that if UConn wins, they’d win some gear from Hey Bear—the clothing brand, owned by Outlaw Partners which publishes Explore Big Sky, offered a prize to the top bracket. The young Bauchmans were excited, one of whom goes by the nickname “bear” and already owns a Hey Bear shirt.
“I don’t have a tie to UConn or anything,” Bauchman said. “I have to be honest, I haven’t told my friends in San Diego that I picked UConn. I don’t think they’d be happy about that.”
UConn defeated San Diego State in the NCAA Championship on April 3. Bauchman chose Alabama to beat San Diego State in the Sweet 16, but said he was happy when the Aztecs proved him—and the majority of ESPN.com brackets which picked Alabama as champion—wrong.
A San Diego resident with two sets of aunts and uncles in Big Sky, Bauchman said he visits a few times a year. He enjoys golfing in Big Sky, which helped him name his bracket. He entered one other March Madness pool, with friends from San Diego, and he picked UCLA as part of “a more conservative approach” in a higher-stakes pool.
“[The Huskies] kind of came on hot there, and it showed in the tournament… It’s all about who gets hot,” Bauchman said.
“I didn’t expect this to be as weird of a year as it was,” he added. “It was crazy.”
Explore Big Sky completed an “Example Bracket” to help registrants enter properly. It finished 10th overall, despite a concerning moment midway through the tournament when the auto-filled example was leading the charge.