By now, I’m sure everyone’s brackets they filled out for the NCAA college basketball tournament have blown up (thank you Kansas). Then again, we have Northern Iowa to thank for that and besides loving upsets come tourney time, UNI’s head coach is Ben Jacobson. Yep, he’s a Member of the Tribe.
Which brings me to my point. Even if you’re out of your office pool, we can start up a new one — Jews in the NCAA tournament bracket special. Thanks to the fine work done by Ron Kaplan, my counterpart at the New Jersey Jewish News, I now know there are four Jews left playing in the tournament. The original field of 64 teams had seven, but Temple’s Carmel Couchman (insert joke about a Jewish player going to Temple here), Florida’s Nimrod Tishman and UC Santa Barbara’s Jordan Weiner have all been bounced. Luckily for us, there’s one MOT in each region still standing. Let’s investigate further.
East Regional: Ethan Chemerinski, Cornell
It’s a great enough story that the Ivy League champions are in the Sweet 16, the first time in 31 years that’s happened. As a 12 seed (they were way under-seeded), the Big Red beat up on No. 5 Temple and then handled No. 4 Wisconsin with relative ease in the second round. Chemerinski is only a freshman with less than three minutes of playing time per game this year. He hasn’t played in the tournament yet, but what an experience he’s having. The 6-foot-8 forward should use everything that’s going on this year for motivation as he gets more time in the future. And he should enjoy it now because as much as I love the underdog, I can’t see them beating top-seed Kentucky to move to the Elite Eight — but they’ll give it a shot on March 25.
South Regional: Jon Scheyer, Duke
OK, so maybe it’s not so easy to root for the Blue Devils. To some, it’s like rooting for the Yankees. But Coach K does run a pretty decent program over there. And Scheyer’s a big reason for the team’s success. The 6-foot-5 senior leads Duke in minutes played per game (36.6), points per game (18.1) and assists per game (4.9), among other categories. He’s averaged 10 points per game in the team’s two tournament wins thus far. He’s the Jew with the best odds of reaching the Final Four, starting by facing Purdue on March 26.
West Regional: Brandon Reese, Syracuse
Another top seed, and this one in the Big East, no less. It depends on your philosophy: do you root for an in-conference rival to do well because it helps the conference and makes your team (in this case, Pitt) look better? Or do you root against the Orange because, frankly, you just don’t like them. Maybe you can just root for Reese to get into the game. The 5-foot-11 sophomore guard has only played 2.5 minutes per game this season. That’s Chemerinski territory, but at least Reese got some tourney time. He played two minutes against Vermont in the opening round. Syracuse takes on Butler on March 25.
Midwest Regional: Steven Pearl, Tennessee
The Volunteers, a six seed, beat San Diego State, then Ohio to get to the Sweet 16. Next up is No. 2 seed Ohio State, their stiffest test yet. Tennessee has the double-Jew effect, with Steven a junior guard and his father, Bruce, the head coach. The younger Pearl is a 6-foot-5 forward who has averaged 11 minutes per game off the Vols’ bench this year. His playing time has increased in the tournament, getting 15 minutes in each of the first two games. His six points against Ohio matched his season high.
So there you have it, four Jews to pick from. Now it’s time to make it interesting. Pick your favorite Jew and e-mail it to me. Whoever picks the Jew who goes the furthest, wins. Include a prediction of which two teams (Jews or not) will play in the championship and what the final score will be. I’ll use that as the tiebreaker in case all of you go with Scheyer and the Blue Devils.
(Jonathan Mayo, The Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for MLB.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)