Kaiden Gonzales was a lucky bounce away from winning $100,000.
The 7-year-old Gilroy boy came in 21st in the Yahoo March Madness NCAA bracket contest out of millions of entrants. If he had come in 20th, the boy with the gap-toothed smile and a love of basketball and math would have won a runner-up prize of $100,000.
Kaiden correctly predicted UConn, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Florida would all reach the Final Four, but it wasn't enough to finish in the money.
The goal all along wasn’t to win, Kaiden's parents explained. It was to be part of a family game, connecting cousins, uncles, grandparents and aunts stretched between California and Hawaii. Choosing the right teams, or brackets, kept the family talking and emailing for weeks.
“We never did it for the money,” Kaiden’s mom Gena Gonzales said. “We’re such a big sports family. We’ve been doing March Madness brackets for years. The kids picked up on it, and this year, we involved them.”
On Wednesday, after shooting some hoops in the front yard, Kaiden explained his picking strategy.
“I just close my eyes at night,” he said, “and try to pick wisely.”
What does that mean?
Well, Kaiden chose the Florida Gators because he wants to visit the Sunshine State. He picked the Wisconsin Badgers because artist Georgia O’Keeffe was born there and he loves the way her “flowers run off the page.”
He chose the Kentucky Wildcats their state starts with a “K,” the first letter of his name. He picked the winning Connecticut Huskies because he has a stuffed husky named “Happy,” after UConn's mascot.
Still, the Glenview Elementary first grader wasn’t too disappointed when he found out he missed out on a sizeable chunk of change. His mom and his dad, both teachers in Gilroy, and his brother, Bode, 8, still went out to dinner as a family to congratulate Kaiden on a job well done.
"You don’t always have to win,” Kaiden said. “That’s the important thing about every single game.”
(Editor's note: Kaiden's uncle, Tim Sakahara, worked at KNTV from 1999 to 2001.)