Contest History 

What a long and storied history my little contest has! Ok, well, maybe it's not so great, nor so storied, but it is interesting nonetheless. This page is devoted to keeping the memories of contests gone by alive and well.

Prior Year Results

Articles From The Madison Courier

Article from 2005

From "On Sports" by Graham Taylor

JEFF LITTLE HAS been so busy with everyday business up north that he has nearly forgotten the time has arrived for his annual NCAA basketball tournament contest.

“I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so antsy about this year’s contest, sending me e-mails all week saying, “Are we doing it this year?” The former Madisonian, who has been taking charge of “Jeff’s March Madness Contest for the past nine years, has had a quick answer to that question posted on his website for those college basketball fans who have their pencils sharpened and are ready to go: “Of course we’re doing it. Are you nuts?” 

Little admits to being a bit unprepared for the 2005 contest. “I looked at my calendar and realized selection Sunday is This Sunday!! Holy Cow, I’ve almost missed the whole thing. But have no fear folks, your contest manager is here.”

Jeff, who keeps plenty busy up in the Greenwood, Whiteland, Southport, Indianapolis area, simply throws himself into his annual contest every year at this time. He operates a one-man mail room while serving as judge and jury of each and every entry that finds its way from all points around Hoosierland as well as cities and towns from other states.

The 2004 Contest, for example, saw 140 different entry sheets arrive at that address. No one, of course, captured a 100 percent score. Has there ever been a perfect entry in any contest where 65 college basketball teams are heaped in a stack of cards, shuffled a dozen times or so, and pasted up on TV screens everywhere in the World before the whole mess is reduced to a winner? A single winner! That’s one winner from the pile of 65 teams of Wildcats, Blue Devils, Sooners, Gophers, Bulldogs, Demons, Tigers, and on and on we go!

I haven’t asked Jeff for an answer but I feel confident his answer would be, “Nope, there never has been a perfect winner in my contest.” Little was 52nd in last year’s contest with a 73 score. His mother, Lois Marshall of Madison, finished 81st with a 66 score and his brother, Josh Marshall was 75th.
The Madison Courier’s only participant in Jeff Little’s “Shoot ’em up Big Time” contest – On Sports -- finished far down on the list of contestants in 85th place. The reason why? I picked Kentucky to carry away the NCAA championship trophy and, like 38 others who climbed aboard the Tubby Smith “Tubster’s Bluegrass Express,” I couldn’t afford the upset loss in 2004.

None of that stuff this year for me, Jeff. You and Jamie Prime (another former Madisonian and a former Madison Courier writer) can promote UK, U of L, IU, Illinois and Duke all you want, but I am in this year’s contest to win. Let’s put it this way, I want to WIN BIG! Jamie, by the way, wound up next to last in 139th place last year.

Jeff Little says, “If you want to promote the contest to your friends or just remind yourself of how much fun it really is, you can go to and check out last year’s results.” He went on to say, “I will be working hard on getting things ready so you can enter your picks starting this Sunday night after the selection committee completes it work.”

I would ask a favor: If Madison or anywhere in the four-county area (Jefferson and Switzerland in Indiana, and Carroll and Trimble in Kentucky) is home to you, let Jeff Little know it when you fill out your entry form. Ten of last year’s 140 entries carried the “Madison” postmark. We’ll show those big city folks that we know something about college basketball down here along the Ohio River. By the way, Chuck Sage of Madison was 12th on the Jeff Little list of 140 participants last year. Shoot, I was just 73 places lower than the “Chuckster.”

Article from 2004

From "On Sports" by Graham Taylor

I MUST TELL you right at the beginning that we are going to be involved in some serious stuff today. So much stuff as a matter of fact that I have to admit I’ve attempted to find someone at home at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s legal advisor office in Indianapolis before sending the newest edition of On Sports your way.

No one at home, I guess. Shoot, I shouldn’t have expected an answer the day after plans and pairings for the 2004 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament were announced to the world by Billy Packer and Dick Vitale on CBS and ESPN.

I’d be napping too if I had been the guy in charge of aligning 65 college basketball teams into four big gymnasiums in St. Louis, Mo., East Rutherford N.J., Atlanta, Ga., and Phoenix, Az., before the starting field is reduced to what is commonly called the “Final Four” and sent to San Antonio for a blistering battle at the OK Corral.

Packer and Vitale? Billy’s the ball-headed sports announcer who hooks a ride to the Final Four every year about this time. A nice guy all right, but he never quite agrees with the way the NCAA’s tournament committee arranges all those teams in their respective brackets which, this year, include opening games in places like Kansas City, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Denver, Orlando and other places from Seattle to Raleigh. This year, Billy didn’t understand how St. Joseph’s, with 27 victories in 28 games this season, could possibly be tagged as one of four No. 1 seeds in the United States. Never mind the Hawks carried a No. 2 ranking – right behind annual powerhouse Duke in the Internet power ratings.

Vitale, who usually raises cane with the NCAA pairings committee for failing to invite his favorite 99 teams to fill the 65 slots, was extra nice this year and dished out loads of compliments to the men and women who had spent five days to set up the list headed by Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Duke, Gonzaga, St. Joseph’s, Illinois, Maryland and all those other schools waiting for their name to be announced.  The 65 invitees were announced with Kentucky, Duke, St. Joseph’s and Stanford named to fill the No. 1 positions. Top seeds they’re called! Oklahoma State, Connecticut, Mississippi State, and Gonzaga were No. 2 seeds, and Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Texas and North Carolina State were the No. 3 seeds. And on and on the list goes with Alabama State, Texas San Antonio, Liberty, either Lehigh or Florida A&M being the four 16th seeds.

Lehigh and Florida A&M play each other tonight to determine who will be the 64th team having a shot at being the new national basketball champ.

SO, WE HAVE the Terrapins and Spiders along with the Hornets and Roadrunners all ready to go We have the Orangemen and the Crimson Tide winding up pre-tournament practice along with the Flames and the Blazers.

Let’s not forget the Friars and the Jaspers as well as the Rattlers and the Tar Heels. How about playing a game of cowboys and Indians? Well, basketball fans, let me introduce you to Eddie Sutton and his Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Utes of Utah and the Salukis of Southern Illinois. 

I can see Sutton’s Cowboys tangling with Tubby Smith’s Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four with Oklahoma State advancing from the East Rutherford regional and UK from St. Louis in the upper half of the tournament chart. That’s the way I am drawing up my winning entry for former Madisonian Jeff Little’s 9th annual NCAA tournament contest that is currently taking place.

Cowboys and Cats! Tubby and Eddie! Sons Sean Sutton and Saul Smith! Former Cat coach Sutton and current coach of the Cats Smith! If it happens it will take place on April 3 in San Antonio. My pick for the National Championship game from that left side of the bracket is the Tubster and his current breed of Cats.

On the other side of the bracket, we’re going to see No. 1 seed Stanford heading to Phoenix to play No. 2 Connecticut on March 25 with the winner of that game (Stanford) going to San Antonio for a battle with Duke, the winner of the Atlanta regional.

The Final Four, in my opinion? Kentucky coasting in from wins in St. Louis, and Oklahoma State riding in at sunset following triumphs in East Rutherford. Duke will charge in from Atlanta and Stanford will move in from Phoenix.

Duke and Stanford shoot it out in one game and Kentucky goes after Oklahoma State in the other one. The Cats and the Cardinal come out with victories and will offer fans a great championship game.
Our area’s representative in the tournament – Kentucky – will be the 2004 NCAA champion.

HOW ABOUT THAT, Jeff Little? I realize your contest has a most unique scoring system and it doesn’t offer a single cent is prize money. The thrill of winning and letting everyone know about it with your email commentary is payment enough.

I’ll have to check your site to see how my daughter, Carol, is doing. Bet my score is better than Carol’s. It might even be better than the guy from Greenwood, Ind., who’s running this thing as well as his mom, Lois Marshall, of Madison.

Jeff is shooting for 100 contestants this year, the ninth year for this contest. I noted several Madison names during last year’s fun-packed competition and hope to see more this year. A note in the mail today indicated former Madisonian John VandeWater, a 1965 graduate of Shawe Memorial High School, is getting his brackets all ready to send to Jeff.

Speaking of brackets, Billy Packer, Dick Vitale, Jeffrey Little, Eddie Sutton and Tubby Smith, I couldn’t help but read the fine print on the internet bracket from the NCAA. All you office pool participants should take note and then chuckle. Adjust your glasses or contacts and read: “No commercial use without the NCAA’s written permission. The NCAA opposes all sports wagering. This bracket should not be used for sweepstakes, contests, office pools or other gambling activities.”

That’s the legal stuff we mentioned earlier.

But, you don’t need one of those fancy NCAA brackets to play in Jeff Little’s contest. And there’s no gambling involved. Turn in your picks when you go to Jeff’s web site and sit back and enjoy, and be sure to watch for basketball referee Steve Welmer of Columbus. I spotted Steve, a former Columbus, Ind., high school basketball and football star, at the Big 12 Conference tournament last week.

Please remember to display your best smile when someone asks you the following question: “How did the Hoosiers do last night?” Simply tell them IU was in the Final Four a couple of years ago and decided it was time for the Cats and Dogs, Cowboys and Indians, Jayhawks and Mountain Hawks, the Red Raiders and Blue Demons, and the Valparaiso Crusaders and Homer Drew have another shot at being the state of Indiana’s representative in the Final Four for a change.u00

Article from 2003

From "On Sports" by Graham Taylor

I TOLD YOU a couple of weeks ago about Jeff Little’s 8th annual ‘Jeff’s March Madness Contest.’ The former Madisonian, a 1989 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School who now resides in Greenwood with his wife, Heather, and three daughters, has 88 participants in this year’s contest. That’s an increase of 37 from last year’s total of 51 and a giant-sized hike of 80 more than the total he had during the contest’s very beginning.

It’s far too late to enter the 2003 contest but I mention it again because of an award I won for the second straight year. In Jeff’s report to the 88 participants Monday morning following Rounds one and two of the NCAA tournament which produced this week’s Sweet Sixteen, he wrote: “Normally I wouldn’t give the same award to the same person two years in a row, but if the shoe fits, the ‘Shouldn’t You Know Something About This Stuff Award,’ for the second year running, goes to Graham Taylor, the semi-retired sports writer and all-around good guy. Don’t worry, Graham, I won’t tell any of your buddies at the newspaper.”

Oops, I just told them didn’t I?

Anyway, another former Madisonian has entered the 2003 contest after reading about it last year in The Madison Courier. Little wrote: “After your column last year I received an e-mail from Jamie Prime. He and I were great friends in high school and two of the four valedictorians of the MCHS class of 1989. Jamie is a lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission and I believe he lives inside the DC Beltway in Washington, D.C.”

Prime ranks 56th heading into the Sweet Sixteen with a 65 percent average.

Another local contestant is Chuck Sage, who was recipient of the ‘I Hate This Stupid Scoring System Award.’ Chuck ranks 30th on the list of 88 guessers but, as Little pointed out in his commentary on the first two rounds, “The really bad news, Chuck, is that you’ve lost two of your Final Four” even though Sage is batting at an 80 percent clip.

My daughter, Carol, is 51st on the list but still has her Final Four alive. I lost Illinois and Louisville but have Kentucky and Texas still going and hold down the 53rd position.

Jeff points out that, “Kentucky, a team on a mission and we recognize it, is picked to win it all,” he said, adding, “Only two IU faithful had the guts to pick Indiana to go all the way.”

Sorry, I wasn’t one of the two!

Jeff also notes in his report the Big East Conference is 8-0 heading into the Sweet Sixteen — eight victories and no defeats. The Big 12 is 8-3, the Big Ten is 7-3, the ACC is 5-2 the SEC and PAC 10 are each 5-4, and Conference USA is 8-3.

His ‘Mascot Watch’ indicates the Cats (9-10) and Dogs (5-6) aren’t doing too well while Rodents are 2-0. Heavenly Powers are 0-2 and Demonic Powers are 4-2. Military Units sport a 3-2 record and Wild West Icons are 4-3.

Jeff Little has this to say about his personal picks which have produced a 19th place on the list of 88: “My picks haven’t even been close this year. I was most disappointed with Mississippi State. I watched them give Kentucky a run for the money in the SEC tournament and I was sure they had deep potential for the NCAA. I think they just ended up drawing this year’s Gonzaga, team of destiny, and there’s no way you can beat destiny.

“The biggest surprise to me this year is Michigan State. I know they were expected to do well before the Big Ten season started, but they really didn’t live up to expectations. I guess having Tom Izzo as your coach in the Big Dance provides a significant advantage. If you are the Texas coach, think of who you are competing with in your regional: Jim Calhoun (UConn), Gary Williams (Maryland) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State). They have, what, at least four national championships among them? That’s why I don’t think Texas will make it out of there alive. But what do I know? I’ve been wrong about just about everything this year!”

Jeff Little’s unique scoring system, his “Here’s pie in your face” commentary, the countless hours he devotes to delivering a quality contest to the participants, and his knowledge of college basketball combine to make this contest so much fun. There is no entry fee — everything to gain and nothing to lose. My advice: keep it in mind and join up next March when the 9th annual ‘Jeff’s March Madness’ contest will get underway.

I think it would be nice if this former Madison Courier sports editor could win the ‘Top Prognosticator Award.’ I sure don’t want the ‘Hey, I’m Not Dead-Last Award’ or the ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Getting Beat By A Girl Award.’

Gee, it would be nice if there was an ‘Old Sports Writers Never Die, They Just Keep Asking Indiana to Duplicate Kentucky’s High School Basketball Tournament Format Award.’ I doubt, however, if Jeff could work something like that into such an outstanding format he already has.

On behalf of its participants, I am proud to present the ‘Nationwide NCAA Fans March Madness Contest Manager Of The Year Award’ for 2003 to Jeff Little.

Article from 2002

From "On Sports" by Graham Taylor

TO BE ABSOLUTELY truthful about it, these NCAA tournament basketball pools are a great big pain in the neck.

And, by being a participant in a couple of them, you can drop a few dollars while suffering from the intense heartburn as the teams you picked to win game after game stumble in the early rounds of competition.

I read the other day that millions of Americans shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to fill out the brackets in various office pools only to see their Final Four picks tumble one by one before the "Big Dance" actually gets underway.

I have told you before that I never ever came close to winning the office pool during the 33 years I spent as sports editor and then managing editor of The Madison Courier.

"Sam" the Dog and "Abby" the Dog constantly made better selections and even wound up "in the money." I was always way back in the pack of losers.

Usually the winner was somebody in the composing room or the front office who knew very little, if anything, about the treasured game of basketball. And they, each year, would admit they picked a team nicknamed the "Wildcats" because they liked cats, not because they figured Kentucky was the team to beat. Or they would choose Georgia because they thought "Bulldogs" were so ugly they were cute instead of going with Maryland because they were "scared to death" of turtles.

There are some contests around that offer you as much as $1 million in cash if your entry contains all winners from round one through the championship game.

Ha! Ever read about such a winner? I know I haven't! Your odds are much better at picking the exact finish of a 15-horse field in the Kentucky Derby.
SO, IT WAS with great pleasure that I heard of a "pool" or "contest" where an entrant can have tons of fun without losing the family farm or even a couple of bucks and keep your entry in the running until the very last game.

Never mind you didn't foresee the ascension of Kent State and Southern Illinois. Forget about Cincinnati stumbling along the way. And that impossible surge of power by Missouri really doesn't play a major role in who wins or loses.

I filled out my NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament brackets entered in a contest where awards are handed out following every round of action and where updated standings are dished out to every participant at the conclusion of each day's games.

Better yet, to become entered in this real cool contest I didn't have to open my billfold or unload all the quarters from the family piggy bank.
The cost? Nothing. Zero. Zilch! It's free!! I didn't even have to spend 34 cents for a stamp. I'm playing in this basketball picking contest with other folks I know and others I might someday know on the computer.

And the game is run by a former Madisonian who maintains an upbeat tempo day after day as he compiles wins and losses for each contest participant, including himself.

JEFF LITTLE IS a 1989 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School and has operated this "funfest" since 1996. It has 51 participants this year compared to just eight when he got the idea during a daily commute from Noblesville, where he resided, to Fort Wayne, where he worked.
"I can remember March rolling around and I decided to get a few guys in the office to give me their picks for the office pool for a friendly contest," Jeff recalled Sunday. "I can remember putting a few comments about the tournament on the website, mainly as a practice exercise in web development more than anything."

A coworker was impressed and told Jeff his comments about the various picks were "pretty witty and insightful." So, he went with it "almost as a joke, posting commentary after every round and tossing out 'awards' designed mostly as barbs for contestants. The next year, he invited other friends to participate rather than limiting it strictly to coworkers. That's when it began to grow.

The scoring system, the program he uses for results tracking and reporting, the web site, and the commentary have all evolved over time. "One of the things that irritated me about office pools is that there was no reward for picking early round upsets," Little said. "You could miss half your games in round one and still win because you picked three of the Final Four and the national champion. I wanted something more interesting; something that rewarded guts and what makes the NCAA tournament so exciting - the Cinderella story."

Jeff, after being a co-valedictorian "with three others who were probably a lot smarter than me," graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1993 from Rose Hulman with a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics. He had attended E. O. Muncie Elementary School and went to the ELOP (Extended Learning Opportunities Program) at Eggleston for three years.

His father, Graham Robert "Big Bobby" Little died in 1999. His mother, Lois Marshall, and his step-father Ron Marshall are residents of Madison. A brother, Josh Marshall, is a student at the University of Indianapolis and helps Jeff with the youth ministry at Grace Assembly Church in Greenwood.
Jeff and his wife, Heather, have two daughters. Four-year-old Andrea and two-year-old Amber.

HIS MARCH MADNESS contest is free for each and every participant. No money involved, it's a simply-for-the-fun-of-it kind of game. "I always enjoyed the office pools, but gambling is contrary to my faith," Jeff Little said, "so I decided to make a contest where there was no money on the line, but would still be fun for the participants."

That's where his commentary comes in. "I love the ESPN Shtick, how they are able to not take themselves nor sports seriously all the time," he noted. "Apparently people enjoy it. I was surprised this year to get emails from past contestants like, 'You are doing the contest this year, right?' and 'Thanks so much for doing this.' I look forward to it every year now."

Jeff believes if there's anything worth doing, it's worth doing well. "Just because there's no prize doesn't mean it shouldn't be fun and well done," he said. "I honestly think the contest makes people smile, and joy is probably something that is in short supply in people's lives these days."

UNIQUE AND SOMEWHAT nutty prizes, in the form of comments from Jeff Little, go out to participants following each round of the tournament. I even won a prize after Sunday's session: The "Shouldn't You Know Something About This Stuff Award." Jeff wrote, "This award goes to retired Madison Courier sports editor Graham Taylor, who like the ESPN, CBS and other 'experts' is proving that they all pretty much GUESS just like we do. To his credit, he has climbed from way back in the pack to 13th place."

Jeff told me that I am sitting in pretty good shape right now. "You can win 14 of the remaining 15 games, and though you are 35 points behind the leader, with all the bonuses, anything is possible," he said.

The "Holy Bonus Points, Batman! Award" went to participant Adam Lamb who, according to Jeff, "Rocketed to a commanding lead in our contest by virtue of three extraordinary second-round upset picks: Kent State, Missouri and Southern Illinois. Yes, folks, he really did pick all three and has collected 42 bonus points so far.

The "Fallen Heroes Award" was presented to four contestants - Kim Burns, Bob Pearl, Randy Phillips and Gina Buchanan, all of whom lost the team they had tagged to win the national championship.

And, the "Best of the Worst Award" was presented to Jeff's brother, Josh Marshall, "The contestant with the best score who didn't make the Top 25. This award is akin to those 'Honorable Mentions' you see for 'All-Whatever' team selections or to the 'Others Receiving Votes' portion of the weekly Associated Press polls."

IT IS INTERESTING to note that the Cats, like Kentucky and Arizona along with a couple others still in the running, are 8-1 in nine contests. The only loser, the Cincinnati Bearcats. Jeff comments, "We all knew the 'HuggyBears" would make an early exit, didn't we?

"The felines are best at this point," Little said. "The canines are next at 7-5 and the 'Question Mark' category is 2-0." The contest manager quickly added, "Whatever a Hoosier is, they're doing pretty good at this point."

He added a note on UK's success. "Speaking of Cats, those of you who picked Kentucky to go all the way may not have been so crazy after all. Apparently these guys have decided to stop committing misdemeanors and start playing basketball. I think Maryland ought to be worried."

Add to that his question and answer to "What exactly IS a Saluki, anyway? It turns out the Southern Illinois mascot is "A breed of dog originating in ancient Egypt. This year it's also the latest installment of 'Bounce Bobby Knight from the First Round.' All the IU fans undoubtedly were having flashbacks. Aren't you glad it's someone else's team this year?"

Jeff Little admits he is not nearly as "in to basketball as I used to be because other things such as ministry and family have become much higher priorities, but I still love to watch and try to play the game. What Indiana boy doesn't? The commentary is my favorite part of the contest. No matter how you are doing in the contest, I just know people open up their email to see if they won an 'Award' after the latest round of games. As long as people continue to enjoy it, I will continue to do it."

Jeff and his family make frequent trips to Madison to visit his parents and says Madison is a wonderful place to grow up. "There are many unique aspects of life in Madison that people I meet from all over the state always ask about," he remarked. "Such as the Chautauqua of Arts Festival in the fall, the Madison Regatta, the historic homes and Clifty Falls State Park. The other neat thing about Madison is that everybody seems to know everybody else. There aren't many strangers in Madison.'

He pointed out that, "Greenwood is also a nice place to live. You get something of the rural feel of a Madison or a Noblesville while still being afforded all the amenities of the big city. Johnson County is growing very rapidly which makes it an exciting time for our church. As you can tell, ministry figures predominately in my life."

WHAT A NEAT March Madness basketball tournament contest Jeff Little operates. What a neat young man Jeff Little is. Jeff wasn't an outstanding athlete in high school or college but he was an outstanding student in the classroom.

I asked how to list his occupation in this edition of On Sports. His reply reveals everything: "My present occupation for money is a programming consultant for Information Vision, Inc., working on a contract for International Truck & Engine Corporation. My present occupation for God is a Volunteer Youth Pastor at Grace Assembly of God, New Whiteland, Indiana.

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