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Best of NAMA 2020

By Tyne Morgan

Avid college basketball fans might be sad to see the season come to an end, but for three individuals, the season ended with some excitement. AgWeb's first-ever Bracket Busters Challenge, presented by CASE IH, drew entries from across the country this year.

The top three 2022 Bracket Busters Challenge winners are:
1st place: Marian Dovenberg of Minneapolis, Minn.
2nd place: Bill Wagner of Neche, N.D.
3rd place: Debra Ellis of Pleasanton, Kan.

Each winner received a cash prize, including $1,000 to the top spot. Dovenberg says the winning strategy for her bracket this year included one major component.

"Absolute, total luck," she says. "I fill out the bracket, just because it's fun."

Dovenberg admits she's not an avid basketball fan, in fact, she barely watches a regular season NCAA basketball game. Instead, she's in it for the fun and friendly competition, as her extended family members fill out a bracket each year to compete against one another. It's a tradition her family started nearly 20 years ago.

"I think two things gave me a little bit of an edge," she says. "One was that I picked Murray State, which was not a high-ranking team. And that was totally by coincidence. I heard some sports announcer mention they liked Murray State. And when I saw it on the bracket, I was like, 'Well, I'll take this guy.'"

Dovenberg also selected eighth seed North Carolina to make it to the championship game, another factor that played into her advantage as the tournament played out.

"Hardly anyone put an eighth seed in the final game because the reality is that wasn't the smartest move in the world, but it turned out to be great," she adds. "So, I think between Murray State and North Carolina, it made up for all my other mistakes, so I can live with that."

It wasn't until the top eight teams were playing that she realized her bracket was as good as it was. Heading into the championship game, she held the top spot on the AgWeb Bracket Busters Challenge, and she had KU winning it all.

"I have several nephews and brothers that I need to keep the bragging rights going in perpetuity, it'll go forever. I've set the bar now, and we'll see if they can jump high enough, but I doubt it," she says with a big smile. "And it's all in good fun. That's what it's about. So, it was awesome."

Dovenberg didn't only finish at the top spot on Bracket Busters, but she picked the same teams on the ESPN bracket, and there, she finished in the top 1%.
Dovenberg grew up on a family farm in Minnesota, which is still in the family today. Her nephew and great nephew now live on the homestead farm, marking the fifth and sixth generation of a family farming legacy she's proud is still thriving today.

View the top 10 Bracket Buster winners this year, and mark your calendars to join the fun next year.

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