By Phillip J. Milano
The team his heart wanted to win “choked,” but the team he picked to win triumphed.
Because of that, Jacksonville University freshman Jordan Linder ended up in a four-way tie for first place in ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge NCAA bracket contest, beating out 6.5 million other entries after Kentucky won the NCAA Basketball Championship Monday night.
After a whirlwind of media attention when his bracket submissions tied for the high score going into the Final Four, two of the four final winning entries in the contest wound up being Linder’s, giving him a special place at the top.
“I watched the first half but couldn’t watch the rest, it was too nerve-wracking,” said the 18-year-old air traffic control major, whose ESPN screen name is CincyFan007. “I was actually surprised because I kept checking online and Kansas was coming back. But when I found out Kentucky won I was pretty excited.”
Excited for his bracket entry, yes, but not excited for sentimental favorite Ohio State, which lost in the semifinals to Kansas on Saturday.
“That was probably the game of all games and the one I was most worried about,” he said. “Ohio State and Kansas are powerhouses. It came down to the final 20 seconds and I thought Ohio State had it, but they choked like I figured they would in a big game.”
And even though ESPN’s rules mean Linder will be lumped in with the top 1 percent of finishers in a random drawing for the contest’s grand prize (a $10,000 Best Buy gift card), that’s not stopping him from thinking about next year.
“Oh I’ll definitely do it again. I don’t think I can make a bracket as good as this again, but I can always try.”
The drawing for the grand-prize winner is this week, though it may be up to a month before the winner is notified, according to ESPN.com.