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NJBIZ Brackets bonus: High hopes as games get under way

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Structure Tone’s John White is going to have a busy day today.

During the day, the senior vice president of the construction management firm will be involved in his company’s move from Lyndhurst to new office in Woodbridge. Tonight, he’ll lace them up for the NJBIZ Brackets tournament, where he’s representing his alma mater, No. 15 Iona.

“I think we got a bad draw,” White said of the matchup with No. 2 Ohio State. “We’ve been known to play tough teams in the past, but I think we’re a severe underdog. The chances of us winning this game are pretty tough, but certainly, we’ve come to play before.”

Tonight, he’s up against Dennis Drazin, of Drazin & Warshaw, in NJBIZ Brackets, the tournament that pits Garden State executives against one another as they root on their almae maters.

White, who graduated from Iona in 1988, gets together with about a dozen of his college friends once a year to watch basketball, though these days he describes himself as more of a casual fan. But when he was at Iona, he was caught up in the game. 

“The basketball team was a good team, and we used to go to a lot of the games, and back then they made it into the NCAA a couple of times,” he said. What he remembers most from those days, he said, is “the whole student body atmosphere,” that went along with the sport.

He’ll be looking to recapture some of that atmosphere tonight, after the move is done. “Hopefully, I can gather at least a couple of people who live locally, either here in Bergen County or in Rockland County” to root for Iona, he said. –Beth Fitzgerald

Irish eyes have a good chance of smiling

Attorney Joshua Pini, of Morristown’s McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, figures his alma mater, Notre Dame, has a pretty good chance of beating Iowa State tonight — even if it’s not in the women’s tournament. 

“My standard joke is Notre Dame wins it all — if you’re talking about the women. But the men got a good draw,” he said. “They just need to be able to feed the ball to (forward Jack) Cooley and get one or two guys hot, and they have a pretty good shot.”

The team had three different coaches while he was at Notre Dame and “each year we got more into it, so by my senior year we were going to pretty much every home game.”

Pini knows the games from the court and the bleachers. “I played a lot when I was younger. I’ve got 3 boys, 8, 3 and 10 months, so I don’t get to do a lot of my own sports, but my son did basketball clinic this year and it’s been fun getting to play with him.”

He will watch the game at home tonight with his wife, Amy, who graduated with him in 2002, and her dad, a 1968 graduate of Notre Dame’s law school. –Beth Fitzgerald

Dancing? He’s going bowling

La Salle alum Jack O’Donnell, a partner at the Withum, Smith & Brown accounting and consulting firm, said he enjoyed watching his team’s win against Boise State Wednesday night. “They played well; they were passing the ball very well, it was a quick game,” he said. “And they were forcing Boise State into quite a few bad turnover mistakes. … They just played a great game, they played very confident.”

But today could be a different story, he admitted.

“We have a much tougher opponent with Kansas State,” he said. “I know they played a Big 12 (conference team), and it’s a strong conference, so we’ll have to see. But I’m confident.”

The game is at 3:10 today, normally a tough time to watch the game — especially since it’s the middle of tax season. But a coincidence will make Friday an excellent time for   O’Donnell to see LaSalle take on Kansas State.

“We have our mid-tax season break” today, he said. “We have a bowling event in New Brunswick, so we’ll have the TV on and we’ll be able to watch it while we’re bowling.” –Beth Fitzgerald

Taking a seat

Bob Mulcahy expects his Wildcats to beat UNC tonight — and perhaps even Kansas in the next round. But despite that confidence, the ’58 Villanova grad will stick to the ritual he practices for any games played by Villanova or Rutgers.

“If it’s not going well, I change my seat,” said Mulcahy, a principal with Mulcahy Associates LLC. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes I don’t want to move if it’s going well.”

Mulcahy, vice chairman of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, plans to watch the Wildcats play from his home with his sons-in-law, who are used to his seat-changing superstition.

Back in college, Mulcahy sometimes gave up his seat altogether. His roommate was basketball star Jack Kelly, an All-American in high school and All Big East at Villanova. Back then, a player would receive four free tickets to a game — a valuable perk in the heyday of Big Five basketball. Mulcahy said he sometimes would sell the tickets “outside the Palestra before the game, so we could go out and have pizza after the game.”

Did having a famous roommate help Mulcahy with the women on campus? He didn’t need the help, he said: “I was president of my class so I did pretty well with that.” –Sharon Waters

Coast to coast

Not many people can say one of their classmates was the top pick in the NBA draft, but University of the Pacific grad Ryan Bowling is one of those people.

The global director of external communications for Mars Inc. graduated in 1998 along with Michael Olowokandi, who was selected first in that year’s draft, after leading Pacific to the NCAA tournament.

While in school, Bowling followed the Tigers at home and on the road for a few tournament games, when not playing water polo and swimming for the school.

When asked about Pacific’s first round opponent — No. 2 Miami, represented by Michelle Muraski, of EisnerAmper, Bowling simply asked, “Tigers are stronger than birds, aren’t they?”

Muraski has a different take on that, though when she graduated from Miami in 2009, the basketball team was not as big a deal to her.

“People are surprised at how well they have played this year. I don’t think people expected it,” she said.

She keeps in touch with Delta Gamma sorority sisters who live and work in the New York and New Jersey area, so the e-mails were flying ahead of the afternoon tipoff. “There are a few bars in New York City and in Hoboken that are known as ‘Miami bars’ where people go to watch football and basketball,” she said. “I’m sure a lot of Miami alums will be trying to watch the game.”

Not surprisingly, Muraski was a much bigger Miami football fan while in college, but hoops are on her radar screen, and she’ll be following the team’s journey through the brackets if they get their first victory today. –Melinda Caliendo and Beth Fitzgerald

Curtain up

Discipline. Training. Endurance. Flexibility. All key to being an elite athlete, as well as being a member of the Ole Miss theater department.

Michele Rittenhouse spent her time at Ole Miss on the catwalk instead of the bleachers — requirements to participate in three shows every year kept Rittenhouse in the theater most days and nights, though that’s paid off in her current work, as a direct in the theater arts and technology division at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Rittenhouse said she attended a few football games at Ole Miss during her years there, but missed out by the narrowest of margins on seeing one of the school’s all-time greats. She arrived at Ole Miss the year after quarterback Archie Manning graduated. Now, Rittenhouse cheers for Manning’s son, Eli, quarterback for the New York Giants. –Melinda Caliendo

Follow NJBIZ Brackets online and on Twitter @njbizbrackets.

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