A simple strategy was all Collin Kottke needed to win the Star Tribune's #SpeedBracket challenge this March Madness season.
Of 48 college basketball sheets filled out by Star Tribune staffers and readers in the first hour after the bracketrs were released on Selection Sunday, Kottke's blew away the competition. He correctly guessed the Final Four of Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State, then swished the half-court shot by picking the Blue Devils over the Badgers for the finale.
His thought process when filling out a #SpeedBracket?
"Pick winners," Kottke wrote in an e-mail Monday night after Duke won the title. "In brackets you need to go with proven winners, but have enough upsets to set yourself apart from the pack. Also, never pick against Tom Izzo. If it’s March and Izzo is coaching Michigan State, something magical is going to happen."
Using ESPN's scoring system, Kottke won the #SpeedBracket pool by 180 points. He was one of just seven players to correctly pick Duke.
Reader @PatrickGoebel2 on Twitter also had Duke and Wisconsin in the final, but went with the Badgers and finished in a tie for seventh.
"It didn’t give me a whole lot of time to think which was probably a good thing," Kottke wrote. "If I overanalyzed it I don’t know if I would have had Duke winning the whole thing. Duke is always on upset alert in the early rounds.
"I am not a Duke fan. I am not to the Patrick Reusse level of hatred of the Dukies, but I am not a ‘fan’"
Early on Kottke's bracket looked cooked. He picked Baylor and Iowa State to the Elite Eight. Both teams lost on the first full day of the tournament - Kottke's birthday.
He watched it all unfold on multiple platforms.
"Friends and family make fun of me on the opening weekend for having the TV, laptop and iPad all going on different games," Kottke wrote.
Perhaps Kottke's only regret? He did not enter the #SpeedBracket into any traditional, possibly lucrative pools.
"It really looks like I should have done that now," Kottke wrote.
As for the Star Tribune "experts" it was sports boss Glen Crevier taking top honors (honest; we didn't let him win), finishing sixth place overall. Crevier also correctly picked the Final Four, but predicted Kentucky topping Duke for the championship.
Second-in-Sports-command Chris Carr was the only Star Tribune staffer to correctly pick Duke as the champion.
Thanks to everyone who participated. Let's do it again next year!