Geoffrey Lioon nearly scored $100,000 from Warren Buffett.
The 24-year-old UF student was ranked No. 4 in the highly publicized Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge until Saturday.
When Arizona lost, Lioon fell to number 4,792 out of the possible 15 million entrants.
“I didn’t get anything done because I had to watch every game,” Lioon said. “No studying was done because I was so stressed out.”
Lioon, an information systems and operations master’s student, said losing the $100,000, granted to each of the top 20 winners, won’t be as rough if the Gators — his No. 1 pick — end up winning the championship.
“The fact that I was even able to come so close to make it to the top 20 going into last Saturday night,” Lioon said, “was pretty remarkable.”
Lioon said using statistics but factoring in upsets are his top pieces of advice.
“At the end of the day, it’s a crap shoot almost,” Lioon said. “I’ve seen girls win it that haven’t watched one game all year.”
Jonathan Arnholz, a 20-year-old UF public relations sophomore and vice president of the Men’s Basketball Rowdies, said his fifth bracket, which he spent the least time on, was doing the best.
“It’s certainly an accomplishment,” Arnholz said in response to Lioon’s bracket, “but a lot of luck also goes into it.”
Lioon said the challenge got harder toward the end of the tournament because the points for each game increased.
“When it rains, it pours,” Lioon said. “Everyone reaches a point where their bracket busts, and I hit that wall.”
Lioon said he posted pictures of proof on his Facebook page and received a lot of enthusiasm and hope that he would win.
People even jokingly asked for money, but he mentally prepared for the worst.
“My own roommate was like, ‘I need new braces, man.’” Lioon said. “I told him, ‘I’m not buying you braces even if I win.’”
Lioon said he was hoping to be in Dallas this weekend with a winning bracket and a winning team.
But he said that having the best of both worlds seemed too good to be true.
“My roommates asked me, ‘If you had to choose between the $100,000 and the Gators winning, what would you choose?’ That’s such a difficult question,” Lioon said. “I maybe would pick the $100,000, just because I have a lot of student debt to pay off.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 4/3/2014 under the headline "Gator almost wins $100K from Warren Buffet"]