CREDIT: Jeopardy!

When it comes to my game show fandom, there’s no semi-regular occasion I look forward to more than Jeopardy!‘s Tournament of Champions. For the past few ToC’s, I’ve been handicapping the field in an attempt to identify the probable champions. My guesses have been decent thus far, as each of my #1 picks has made it to the Finals each time (and at least one of them won it all). But I’ve also come to realize that the entire ToC field is always filled with potential diamonds. You gotta keep an eye out for everybody. Having said that, I do feel confident in identifying certain favorites based on their performances in their initial winning streaks. So listed below are the 5 contestants in this year’s ToC who have impressed me the most, and listed below them are the other 10 contestants, who have also impressed me. (And sadly not included on the list is Brayden Smith, who won 6 games over December and January but passed away unexpectedly before the ToC.)

The Favorites:
1. Jason Zuffranieri (19 Wins, $532,946) – Just a few months after James Holzhauer set the second-longest Jeopardy! win streak ever, Jason came along and entered the pantheon himself with the fourth-longest streak of all time.
2. Jennifer Quail (8 Wins, $228,000) – The power of the buzzer is strong with J-named champions lately. I wonder why…
3. Sam Kavanaugh (5 Wins, $156,202) – Sam’s got the highest average win total of this year’s lineup.
4. Mackenzie Jones (8 Wins, $204,808) – Mackenzie may just brush the entire competition off her shoulders.
5. Ryan Bilger (4 Wins, $107,049) – Ryan may have won only 4 games, but his loss came against … Sam Kavanaugh, who needed 3 big Daily Double wagers to pull it off.

The Rest of the Field:
-Karen Farrell (8 Wins, $159,603) – Along with Jennifer and Mackenzie, Karen completes the trifecta of late 2019/early 2020 8-game champs.
-Kevin Walsh (5 Wins, $111,301) – At this point the preview will focus on style points. Kevin’s got the professor glasses and salt-and-pepper beard.
-Paul Trifiletti (5 Wins, $106,801) –  Paul rocks a look similar to Kevin, but no facial hair and curlier on top.
-Ryan Hemmel (4 Wins, $104,526) – Tight smile and untucked top button for Ryan (that inch or two is about the most chest you’ll ever see on Jeopardy!).
-Andy Wood (4 Wins, $91,999) – Nailing the dadcore look.
-Sarah Jett Rayburn (4 Wins, $89,300) – Sarah’s thick-framed glasses have me wondering if she beamed in from the future.
-Veronica Vichit-Vadakan (4 Wins, $89,0001) – With a short dark bob and glasses, Veronica filled the “Marcie from Peanuts cosplay” slot.
-Steve Moulds (3 Wins, $85,603) – With a plaid shirt and a red pullover sweater in his initial run, Steve looked perpetually ready for fall. But this tournament is airing in the spring – can he bridge that disconnect?
-Nibir Sarma (2020 College Champion, $100,000) – As the College Champ, he had to go for the typical school hoodie, but in the ToC promo video, he’s swapped that out for a bow tie, a wise decision.
-Ben Henri (2020 Teachers Tournament Champion, $100,000) – He’s got the sort of goatee that blends seamlessly into his top hair. That takes work.