It was the end of February 2006 when I received the email. I was still covering college basketball and knew way too much about way too many teams.
The email came from my friend Dave Curtis, then of the Orlando Sentinel. And it was about one of the craziest/greatest pools I’ve ever been a part of. In a newsroom, there are always pools going on. When I was an intern at The Phoenix Gazette in the summer of 1994 when O.J. Simpson began the white Bronco chase, there was a pool. You put in a buck and had to guess time of capture and dead or alive.
Since then, I’ve been in pools about college hockey, NASCAR, junior college basketball and the NIT.
But The Jerome is the greatest thing ever. What is it? Named after backboard-shatterer Jerome Lane, you basically you have to pick the winner of every men’s basketball conference tournament.
In 2007, my friend Dan Wetzel wrote a column about the awesomeness of The Jerome. He summed it up like this:
“The Jerome is a tournament pool for the truly deranged NCAA follower – mostly, in this case, sportswriters armed with too much useless information and too little of a real life. It requires picking the winners of all 30 conference tournaments and, through various bonus points, churns out a champion who truly should be ashamed of his knowledge of the sport.
It’s basically your NCAA office pool on steroids.”
I can honestly tell you that aside from the “the golf course is opening for season,” the arrival of The Jerome email is one of my favorite days of the year.
This week is filled with championship games in a bevy of generally obscure leagues. Monday night we’ve got championship games in the Colonial Athletic Association and the MAAC. On Tuesday we get the Horizon League title game and a bunch of early games in other leagues.
Maybe it sounds crazy, but it is fun to get excited by the fact that Wofford reached the SoCon title game. Or that you get screwed over by Coastal Carolina losing in the Big South semis (I learned the hard way that you just can’t trust those Chanticleers.).
Anyway, the event has grown from small to now more than 180 people. There is no money exchanged. It’s all about pride and talking trash. The group is interesting. I don’t know nearly as much about hoops as many of these folks — there’s even a former coach turned TV guy in the field who coached in the NCAA tournament. It is very fun.
Picks are made in two waves. One for the tournaments that started this past week and another for ones that start this week.
Here are my early picks. I appear to be very much in the middle of the pack so far.
America East: Boston U – in the championship game
Atlantic Sun: Belmont – WINNER
Big Sky: Northern Colorado – in semis
Big South: Coastal Carolina – lost in the championship game
Colonial Athletic: George Mason – I knew I shouldn’t have trusted the CAA top seed. Lost in the semis
Horizon: Butler – in the title game
Metro Atlantic: Rider – ousted by the very hot Iona in the semis
Missouri Valley: Missouri State – lost in the championship game. Should’ve known better than to pick Valley top seed
Northeast: Long Island – In the championship game
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay – bounced in the semis
Patriot: Bucknell – In the championship game
Southern: Wofford – In the championship game
Summit: Oakland – In the semis
Sun Belt: Florida Atlantic – got bounced early in an upset.
West Coast: Gonzaga – In the semis
Now excuse me, I need to break down the rest of the conferences. I don’t want to finish last.