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New London man picks Huskies from the heart and wins ESPN's bracket challenge

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published April 09. 2014 4:00AM

New London — It may not have been enough to win Warren Buffett's $1 billion, but longtime Huskies fan and New London resident Tim Watrous' NCAA basketball tournament bracket picks were better than at least 11 million others.

Watrous secured the top spot on ESPN's Tournament Challenge when the University of Connecticut men's basketball team won the national championship on Monday.

The win has led to accolades, interviews on ESPN and even a T-shirt from the guys at ESPN's Around the Horn - but he has yet to find out whether his masterly of bracketology will earn him the $10,000 Best Buy gift card grand prize. It turns out that the top 1 percent of the entrants, not the winner, of the free online game are eligible for the prize.

"I was kind of disappointed when I heard that. But it was free," Watrous said. "It's been kind of neat, the whole experience. I never thought I would do this well."

Watrous, 27, is a Mystic native and graduate of Stonington High School who currently studies business information systems at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich.

He said he spent about a half an hour filling out his bracket - just one, even though he could have filled out as many as 10.

"I was just going all in for UConn. I knew they had a lot going for them...with Shabazz Napier and Kevin Ollie coaching," he said. "I felt they were going to go into the tournament and really had put their hearts into it."

Not only did Watrous correctly choose seven of the eight Elite Eight teams and all Final Four teams, but had UConn beating Kentucky by a score of 65-56. The score helped him eke out a win over the next-best player.

Watrous said he grew up in a family of big Huskies fans. He picked with his heart when it came to the championship.

"I usually do not do well. I was very surprised," he said. "Some of the picks, I knew what I was choosing. I did get a couple of upsets, like Wisconsin beating Arizona in the Elite Eight."

Watrous watched Monday's game at his New London apartment with his girlfriend.

"We wanted UConn to win and knew I had a chance to be number one in the U.S.," he said. "We both were on the edge of our seats. It was quite the game. I was screaming at the TV a little."

Watrous said ESPN is supposed to announce the grand prize winner today. In the meantime, he said he was rooting for the women's basketball team to win a national championship to make for a perfect season.

Watrous' bracket can be viewed at: http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/2014/en/leaderboard.

g.smith@theday.com

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