By Phillip Milano
“CincyFan007” first sensed he might be on to something big in ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge NCAA bracket contest when he saw
that 14 of his Sweet 16 picks were correct.
007 – aka Jacksonville University freshman Jordan Linder, 18 – said he was “freaking out” when he went online and saw he also had nailed it in the Elite Eight and Final Four rounds, putting him in a first-place tie among about 6.5 million entries overall.
The contest offers a $10,000 Best Buy gift card as its grand prize. And even though Linder’s a big Ohio State fan, he has Kentucky winning it all this time.
“I tried to avoid going by the team rankings, and instead looked at how teams finished the regular season … who was on a hot streak,” the air traffic control major said. “Then I looked and saw how I did and I was like ‘Oh jeez.’ I’m still shocked at what’s happening.”
Linder, who has Kentucky beating Kansas in the finals on Monday, April 2, says he’s extremely nervous and may not even be able to watch the game.
“My mom’s really excited, and all my friends are a bit stunned by it,” he said.
Linder lived in Ohio until age 5 and then in Germany after his mother transferred there as part of her Department of Defense job. He left Europe for JU last year, picking the university “on a wing and a prayer” after hearing good things about its aviation program in the Davis College of Business.
“Only a few schools in Florida offer aviation, and I liked JU because I knew it would have small classes. It seemed the best. I really love my professors. They’re inspirational and knowledgeable and know how to teach.”
One frustration in the contest is that ESPN changed its contest rules so that anyone in the top 1 percent of entries will be eligible in a drawing for the grand prize.
“So even if I win, there’s like 65,000 people who also will be vying for the gift card,” Linder said. “It’s kind of unfair.”
But he’s not thinking about that just yet. He just wants to get through Saturday’s semifinals and Monday’s game.
But if he does win the money?
“Oh, I’d definitely like some new computer stuff. I have a pretty old computer.”