Heidi Blackmar / Courtesy
Odie, a boxer pitbull mix, belongs to Steamboat Springs couple Heidi Blackmar and Pat Yeager. Odie competed head to head with his owners and 52 other humans in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket.
Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs Remember how your attempt to predict the NCAA men’s basketball bracket turned out?
Let me remind you: It was horrible. Sure, maybe you saw Kentucky and the one-browed wonder Anthony Davis coming, but Louisville and Florida in the Elite Eight? Four schools from the state of Ohio in the Sweet 16?
Oh, and there were those two No. 15 seeds to beat No. 2 seeds, Norfolk State vs. Missouri and Lehigh vs. Duke.
Yeah, you blew those. How do I know? Of the 6.45 million brackets entered in the ESPN.com Tournament Challenge, only two still were perfect after Norfolk State torpedoed Final Four favorite Missouri. Zero remained a few hours later when Lehigh sank perennial powerhouse Duke, and only one bracket had one loss.
According to ESPN, 31,183 brackets picked both of those major upsets and 24,492 picked both and No. 13 seed Ohio.
So, that means Odie the dog was in pretty exclusive company.
Odie, a boxer pitbull mix, belongs to Steamboat Springs couple Heidi Blackmar and Pat Yeager, and Odie’s an NCAA mastermind.
With plenty of help from Blackmar and Yeager, of course, Odie filled out a bracket for this year’s tournament, competing head to head with his owners and 52 other humans, many of whom presumably had been watching basketball all season long.
Blackmar and Yeager wrote down the name of each team in the tournament on a separate piece of paper, then set out each matchup one at a time. They positioned Odie on the far side of the room, watched as he got all excited, then let him go. Whichever piece of paper he ran toward was his pick. And that’s how Odie grew to legendary status. He ran to Norfolk State and Lehigh, joining only 0.48 percent of those ESPN pickers in predicting both games.
Those choices — along with several other astute observations and subsequent picks — were enough to push Odie to the championship.
Odie was helped by the bracket’s format. It rewarded gradually more points for upsets, so those two 15-over-2 choices were bracket gold. That format also helped mitigate his poor late-tournament performance. Odie wasn’t far off with three of his Final Four teams. Xavier made the Sweet 16 and was within five points of the Elite Eight, falling to Louisville. Only a second-half choke job kept another of Odie’s Final Four choices, Florida, out of the tournament’s final weekend. He also put North Carolina in, though it’s hard to fault the dog for failing to see the Tarheels’ costly first-weekend injuries that helped end their run in the Elite Eight.
It’s hard to say what was going through Odie’s mind when he put Harvard in the Final Four.
Turns out, it didn’t matter at that point.
“By the time it got to the Final Four, he had a 90 percent chance of winning,” Yeager said. “We just thought it would be fun because no one ever really has any idea who to pick. We thought he had just as good of a shot as anyone else, and turns out, he actually did have as good a shot as anyone else.”
Maybe it was dumb luck, but if Blackmar and Yeager hope to take their dog down next year, I’d recommend closing him in another room before they turn on SportsCenter.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com