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First time a charm

Schenectady woman’s basketball picks were fourth-best in more than a million

Thursday, April 10, 2014
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Joan Mack of Schenectady holds up her Final Four winning bracket sheet on Wednesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Joan Mack of Schenectady holds up her Final Four winning bracket sheet on Wednesday.

— The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four made household names of Shabazz Napier and Julius Randle and Traevon Jackson and Scottie Wilbekin.

Joan Mack never heard of any of them, with the exception of Napier. But she did hear of UConn — she is a big Huskies fan, having lived in Connecticut for two decades — and Kentucky, Florida and Wisconsin.

That was her Final Four in the NCAA Capital One Bracket Challenge. And those were in fact the Final Four teams.

She also called a UConn-Kentucky title game. Nailed it. As well as the national champion, UConn.

The 67-year-old Niskayuna woman did not win the national pool. She only finished fourth

… out of more than one million entries.

How did your brackets go, basketball fan?

This is the first bracket Mack ever filled out on her own without the help of her husband, Bill.

“It was basically from the heart,” she said. “The first thing I did when I went to fill out the grid — what is it called? — the bracket, was look for Connecticut. I knew nothing about the seeds. I knew nothing about statistics. I just looked at Connecticut and picked them to go all the way.”

She knew Kentucky’s history — Joan Mack is a basketball fan to some degree — but had no idea they semi-limped into the tournament as an eighth seed.

She still didn’t after the tournament.

“As an eighth seed? I had no clue,” she said. “I just picked the teams I thought would be good.

“In a way I was lucky because I wasn’t influenced by the statistics or the commentators. I couldn’t be swayed by them because I didn’t know what they were talking about.”

As for Bill Mack, a former Linton High basketball player, he finished in a respectable 473,000th or so place.

He had Duke going all the way. The Blue Devils got knocked out in their first game.

It was Bill who insisted that this time his wife do a bracket on her own for the first time, that he wasn’t going to touch, amend or suggest.

Last year many of the picks he changed for her turned out going the way his wife first selected.

Still, when the financial adviser saw her picks this year, he shook his head.

“I kind of laughed,” he said. “I know why she picked Connecticut. I said, ‘Let her go and have fun. Maybe they’ll win the first game.’ ”

“I didn’t know they were underdogs,” Joan Mack said of her seventh-seeded Huskies. “I didn’t even notice those numbers. I was just looking at the names of the teams.”

The physical therapist won no money from the bracket challenge, but she does get to bask in prognostication glory. (Her picks did lead her to victory in a small office pool.) And that is enough for Mack.

In fact, she doesn’t think she will be doing brackets again.

“No, I don’t think so. How can I top this?” she said. “I’m going to be one and done.”

 
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