Bookstore teams stack up to tough competition
By MIKE CONNOLLY
The winner of Bookstore Basketball XXXI may have to travel the toughest path to the title in tournament history.
From top to bottom the top, 32 teams in Bookstore Basketball XXXI stack up as one of the strongest fields in history, according to head commissioner Brian Clemency.
"This was one of the toughest years to rank the tournament," Clemency said after releasing the name of the top-32 teams Tuesday.
Bookstore commissioners usually have 20 to 25 "rank-eligible" teams to consider for the top 32 spots. "Rank-eligible" teams are those teams that either return proven Bookstore players or have several football players or a senior men's basketball player. This year there were nearly 40 such teams and only 32 spots to rank them.
"Usually by the time we get to 20, we have to start reaching for teams," commissioner Al Vitter said. "But this year there were a whole bunch of teams that could fall between 15 [and] 32."
black J.A.C.K.S. emerged from the pack of quality teams to earn the No. 1 seed. Clemency said this was the best team he had ever seen in his four years at Notre Dame.
"This could be the most stacked team in the history of Bookstore Basketball," Clemency said.
The team features two members of the 2001 Champions, Nylon Strokers, in Vitter and senior football player Courtney Watson. Vitter was also named the MVP for the 2001 tournament.
To this solid core, Vitter and Watson added former basketball walk-on John Hiltz. Hiltz, a former member of Versatility, led his team to the semifinals last year and the finals in 1999. He was also named second-team All-Bookstore in 2001.
After being rivals last year, Hiltz and Vitter decided to team up for their senior years.
"We had just decided freshman year that we were going to play together as seniors," Vitter said.
Kevin Muempfer, a 2001 first team All-Bookstore from Five Reasons Your Girl Left You, and Sean McCarthy, a 2001 third team All-Bookstore from the Majestics, round out the top team.
No. 2 Adworks All-Stars features three football players — Carlyle Holiday, Abe Elam and Justin Tuck — in addition to Brian Ostick and Jason Sullivan who each earned All-Bookstore honors as members of Please Call Us Bosephus in 2001.
"They are all phenomenal athletes and great basketball players," commissioner John Moraveck said.
No. 3 Project Mayhem returns four starters from their final eight 2001 squad including Luke Mueller, a former Division I player at Eastern Illinois.
The fourth-ranked Splitters return four players from last year and picked up Matt Wolbeck from the Majestics to form a strong squad. Wolbeck earned the dubious honor of the Hoosier Award last year as the player who shoots the most but makes the least.
No. 5 mmm … Cheese played as the Freeballers last year and returns all five players. Last year they upset Tony Fisher and Coco Butter.
Other notable ranked teams include No. 6 Big Bry Grill, which is made up of many players from Coco Butter, No. 13 Nunc Dimittis, the seminarian team, and No. 11 We Get Wet, an all-freshman squad.
"They have been at Rolfe's non-stop," Vitter said about We Get Wet, which includes four high school basketball players. "They are very talented. They earned our respect."
We Get Wet hopes to follow in the footsteps of previous freshman surprise teams like Versatility in 1999 by making a run deep into the tournament.
"We'll definitely make a run," We Get Wet captain Justin Funk said. "We were all kind of defensive stoppers in high school. We are smaller than the top-10 teams, but we play tough defense."
Commissioners believe they have identified the best 32 teams in the original rankings but know there will be plenty of surprises in the early rounds. They will re-rank the teams on April 24, when only 16 teams remain.
"You have to make your most educated judgment possible," Clemency said. "But the re-ranking is always a better seeding because you have seen people play and know what they can do."
Play begins Thursday with the preliminary rounds. Preliminary and first-round games continue through Tuesday.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, April 10, 2002