Barack Obama Bracket: Breaking Down the President's Picks

Gil ImberAnalyst IIMarch 14, 2012

Barack Obama Bracket: Breaking Down the President's Picks

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    In what has become an annual tradition, United States President Barack Obama has once again unveiled his March Madness bracket to ESPN's Andy Katz as part of Wednesday's morning edition of the network's flagship program, SportsCenter.

    Obama first completed a bracket for a national audience in 2009, when he correctly predicted the North Carolina Tar Heels would win the National Championship.

    However, the President's fortunes have faded since his 2009 debut. The Commander in Chief failed to pick any of the Final Four teams in 2010, and struck out once again in 2011 when No. 3 seed Connecticut won the NCAA Tournament.

    Obama had Kansas winning that year's tournament with Connecticut bowing out to Duke in the Elite Eight.

    This year, the venerable Head of State is back and on a mission to prove how great of a basketball fan he really is.

    Read on for a breakdown of President Obama's 2012 March Madness predictions.

Second Round South: VCU Upsets Wichita State

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    Second Round: South Region

    From No. 1 Kentucky to No. 4 Indiana, President Obama's selection style is pretty simple: stick with the better-ranked team.

    When it comes to No. 5, however, simple mathematics fly out the window and Baracketology takes over. In a Round 2 upset, the President sees No. 5 Wichita State falling to No. 12 VCU.

    Virginia Commonwealth University won the 2011 ESPY Award for "Best Upset" after beating Kansas in the Southwest Region final to advance to the Final Four of last year's NCAA Tournament.

    However, some analysts—Fox Sports Net Detroit's Dave Dye for one—have high hopes for the Wichita State Shockers this season. 

    Dye actually has the Shockers stunning the college basketball world by crashing the NCAA National Championship game, losing to East Region No. 2 seed Ohio State.

     

    Here are the President's South Region picks for Round No. 2:

    No. 1 Kentucky
    No. 16 W. Kentucky

    No. 8 Iowa State
    No. 9 Connecticut

    No. 5 Wichita State
    No. 12 VCU

    No. 4 Indiana
    No. 13 New Mexico State

    No. 6 UNLV
    No. 11 Colorado

    No. 3 Baylor
    No. 14 South Dakota

    No. 7 Notre Dame
    No. 10 Xavier

    No. 2 Duke
    No. 15 Lehigh 

Second Round West: Virginia Beats Florida

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    Second Round: West Region

    In a tie for Obama's most conservative Second Round region, the President eyes just one upset in the West early on: the Virginia Cavaliers over the Florida Gators in a ten seed vs. four seed matchup.

    Though Billy Donovan might still be at the helm, the 2012 Gators team is not like the Florida teams from the mid-2000s—the Gators were just 1-5 against ranked teams this season. 

    Virginia's Mike Scott leads his team with an average of 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while Florida's Kenny Boynton scores 16.3 points per game with teammate Bradley Beal contributing 14.6 points and 6.5 boards of his own.

    The Gators average 76.3 points per game to the Cavaliers' 63.1, though the Cavs hold the edge on defense, allowing just 53.7 points and keeping their opponents to 39.6 percent from the field. Florida's defense gives up 66 points with their opponents shooting 43.3 percent.

     

    Here are the President's West Region picks for Round No. 2:

    No. 1 Michigan State
    No. 16 LIU Brooklyn

    No. 8 Memphis
    No. 9 Saint Louis

    No. 5 New Mexico
    No. 12 Long Beach State

    No. 4 Louisville
    No. 13 Davidson

    No. 6 Murray State
    No. 11 Colorado State

    No. 3 Marquette
    No. 14 BYU

    No. 7 Florida
    No. 10 Virginia

    No. 2 Missouri
    No. 15 Norfolk State 

Second Round Midwest: Purdue Overcomes Saint Mary's

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    Second Round: Midwest Region

    President Obama foresees two upsets in the Midwest: No. 11 NC State will defeat No. 6 San Diego State, while No. 10 Purdue will score a victory over No. 7 Saint Mary's.

    Boilermakers senior Robbie Hummel is back healthy after tearing his ACL twice, and has firmly established himself as the leader of the 72-points-per-game Purdue Boilermakers.

    Meanwhile, the Wolfpack have impressed Obama enough with their 73-point and 46.3 percent shooting averages, though any defense that gives up 68 points per game merit a cause for pause. 

     

    Here are the President's Midwest Region picks for Round No. 2:

    No. 1 North Carolina
    No. 16 Lamar or Vermont

    No. 8 Creighton
    No. 9 Alabama

    No. 5 Temple
    No. 12 Cal or USF

    No. 4 Michigan
    No. 13 Ohio

    No. 6 San Diego State
    No. 11 NC State

    No. 3 Georgetown
    No. 14 Bellmont

    No. 7 Saint Mary's
    No. 10 Purdue

    No. 2 Kansas
    No. 15 Detroit 

Second Round East: West Virginia Edges Gonzaga

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    Second Round: East Region

    The other half of the President's tie for most conservative Round 2 region goes to the East, with a West Virginia defeat of Gonzaga standing alone among upsets. 

    President Obama's trust in the Mountaineers could stem from their rebounding ability. They collectively secure roughly 15 offensive boards per game while the Bulldogs manage just a shade under 11. 

    If the President was looking for any reassurance, at least one columnist believes Gonzaga will fall prey to the first buzzer-beating finish of the NCAA Tournament. After all, this wouldn't be the first time Gonzaga lost an NCAA Tournament game in the final 15 seconds of play.

    And so much for the thought of collegiate loyalty: one of Obama's alma maters, Harvard, is slated to exit the Tournament after their very first game.

     

    Here are the President's East Region picks for Round No. 2:

    No. 1 Syracuse
    No. 16 UNC Asheville

    No. 8 Kansas State
    No. 9 Southern Mississippi

    No. 5 Vanderbilt
    No. 12 Harvard

    No. 4 Wisconsin
    No. 13 Montana

    No. 6 Cincinnati
    No. 11 Texas

    No. 3 Florida State
    No. 14 St. Bonaventure

    No. 7 Gonzaga
    No. 10 West Virginia

    No. 2 Ohio State
    No. 15 Loyola (Maryland)

     

    Key stat of the round: All No. 10 seeds upset to advance.

Third Round South & West: New Mexico Defeats Louisville

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    Third Round: South & West Regions

    So much for the upstart Louisville Cardinals. According to President Obama, their ride ends in Round Three.

    Louisville averages 68.8 points per game with a 42.5 field goal percentage and .686 free throw percentage.

    New Mexico, on the other hand, scores 78.5 points per game at 47.2 percent shooting and .667 from the line.

    Louisville was a surprising Big East tournament winner while New Mexico won the Mountain West tournament. They are both exciting programs and will be interesting to watch in Round Three—if they are fortunate enough to meet each other at that stage.

     

    Here are the President's South & West Region picks for Round No. 3:

    No. 1 Kentucky
    No. 8 Iowa State

    No. 12 VCU
    No. 4 Indiana

    No. 6 UNLV
    No. 3 Baylor

    No. 10 Xavier
    No. 2 Duke

     

    No. 1 Michigan State
    No. 8 Memphis

    No. 5 New Mexico
    No. 4 Louisville

    No. 6 Murray State
    No. 3 Marquette

    No. 10 Virginia
    No. 2 Missouri 

Third Round East & Midwest: NC State on Fire Against Georgetown

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    Third Round: East & Midwest Regions

    After bland games like Syracuse defeating Kansas State and Kansas shutting down Purdue, President Obama picked a true whammy with No. 11 North Carolina State over No. 3 Georgetown.

    The Wolfpack should seriously consider sending referee Karl Hess a thank you card.

    Ever since Hess ejected Wolfpack fans and former players Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani for apparently inciting the crowd around them, NC State has been on a mission.

    After suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss at Clemson, the Wolfpack rallied to beat Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Virginia before losing to the UNC Tar Heels during the ACC Tournament semifinal in what NC Staters will tell you was a game destroyed by officiating.

    UNC fans, of course, will tell you the officiating wasn't why NC State lost.

    Any No. 11 seed looking to go anywhere in the NCAA Tournament needs a spark to light their fire. For NC State, abusing refs seems to be working.

    Meanwhile, Georgetown's bulldog mascot, Jack the Bulldog, tore his little dog ACL this week, which means the Hoyas will be without their mascot.

    Looks like Obama's a bit of a rebel. 

     

    Here are the President's East & Midwest Region picks for Round No. 3:

    No. 1 Syracuse
    No. 8 Kansas State

    No. 5 Vanderbilt
    No. 4 Wisconsin

    No. 6 Cincinnati
    No. 3 Florida State

    No. 10 West Virginia
    No. 2 Ohio State


    No. 1 North Carolina
    No. 8 Creighton

    No. 5 Temple
    No. 4 Michigan

    No. 11 NC State
    No. 3 Georgetown

    No. 10 Purdue
    No. 2 Kansas

Sweet 16 South & West: Baylor Downs Duke

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    Sweet 16: South & West Regions

    After having no luck in naming Duke to the Final Four in his March Madness bracket last year, President Obama has cut the No. 2 Blue Devils out of the tournament with a loss to No. 3 Baylor.

    Baylor started the 2011-12 basketball season on a tear, opening with a 17-0 performance that was ultimately broken up by a 92-74 loss to the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks followed by a close 89-88 defeat at the hands of Missouri.

    Though Baylor ultimately got their revenge with a Big 12 Tournament win over Kansas, Missouri once again defeated the Bears for the Big 12 Tournament title.

    Baylor's 74.9 points per game and 47 percent field goal percentage match up nicely against Duke's 77.5 points per game and 45.8 percent shooting percentage, but Baylor's style is much more ball-movement oriented: The Bears average 15 assists per game while the Blue Devils average only 12.5 assists per game.

    Provided this matchup materializes in the Sweet 16, anything can happen.

     

    Here are the President's South & West Region picks for the Sweet 16:

    No. 1 Kentucky
    No. 4 Indiana

    No. 3 Baylor
    No. 2 Duke

     

    No. 1 Michigan State
    No. 5 New Mexico

    No. 3 Marquette
    No. 2 Missouri 

Sweet 16 East & Midwest: All Ones and Twos

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    Sweet 16: East & Midwest Regions

    Though President Obama's picks were not officially revealed until after news broke of Syracuse Orange star Fab Melo's ineligibility for the NCAA Tournament, it is very likely Obama did not take this into account when filling out his bracket.

    As the Orange's leading rebounder, Melo is sorely missed when not in the starting lineup or on the bench as a reserve. Melo missed three games during the season, during which the Orange averaged just 60.3 points compared to 76.0 with Melo.

    More importantly, the Orange suffered a minus-11.0 rebound differential during those three games. When Melo was in the lineup, the Orange were just minus-0.4.

    If there is any upset to be had during this Sweet 16 round, it very well might be No. 4 Wisconsin defeating top-seeded Syracuse.

    Apparently, Obama doesn't see it that way. 

    As for NC State, the magical ride ends here, with a defeat at the hands of No. 1 Kansas—who have secretly hired Karl Hess to officiate their Sweet 16 contest.

     

    Here are the President's East & Midwest Region picks for the Sweet 16:

    No. 1 Syracuse
    No. 4 Wisconsin

    No. 3 Florida State
    No. 2 Ohio State


    No. 1 North Carolina
    No. 4 Michigan

    No. 11 NC State
    No. 2 Kansas 

Elite Eight: Missouri over Michigan State and Ohio State over Syracuse

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    Elite Eight: All Regions

    So maybe the President did hear about Fab Melo with some psychic CIA superpower. 

    Obama has Syracuse bowing out just ahead of the Final Four with a loss to the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, a 27-7 Big Ten runner-up. More on that in a minute.

    First, Ohio State's field goal percentage of 48.6 percent is off the charts, while their 75.1 points per game edges Syracuse's 74.6 mark. Both teams average in the 15-range for assists per game, while Ohio's 36.8 rebounds per game is still greater than the 35.3 boards a Melo-laden Orange squad gets.

    Just imagine them without Melo.

    Meanwhile, President Obama also has Missouri defeating Michigan State out of the West.

    Specifically, the President called Mizzou's perimeter play "outstanding," while their 50.4 percent field goal percentage is even better than Ohio State's. With 80.3 points per game in the Big 12 in 2011-12, Missouri will be a force to be reckoned with. 

     

    Here are the President's picks for the Elite Eight heading into the Final Four:

    No. 1 Kentucky
    No. 3 Baylor

    No. 1 Syracuse
    No. 2 Ohio State


    No. 1 Michigan State
    No. 2 Missouri

    No. 1 North Carolina
    No. 2 Kansas


Final Four: No. 1s Kentucky and North Carolina Win Semifinals

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    Final Four

     

    Kentucky vs. Missouri

    With a 32-2 overall record and 16-0 mark in the SEC, the Kentucky Wildcats squad is a force to be reckoned with.

    They average 77.1 points per game at 48.7 percent shooting, 39.2 rebounds per game and just shy of six blocks per contest.

    Missouri's 80.3 points per game and 50.4 percent shooting clearly beat Kentucky's marks on face value, but they rebound seven less balls than Kentucky and their best shot-blockers can't hold a candle to the Wildcats' Anthony Davis (4.6 blocks per game). 

     

    Ohio State vs. North Carolina

    The Buckeyes' Jared Sullinger brings 9.3 rebounds per game to go along with his team-high 17.6 points per contest. Sullinger's 0.9 blocks per game also leads the team as does his .394 percent three-point shooting. Could North Carolina possibly have an answer?

    The Tar Heels don't have one response for Sullinger—they have several.

    Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller average 17.4 and 16.5 points per game, respectively, while Zeller's 9.3 boards per game ties Sullinger and is second to Tar Heels leader John Henson's 10.1 rebounds per game. Henson also leads all Tar Heels with 2.9 blocks per game (Zeller has 1.3 BPG).

    As the NCAA Tournament begins, the one question yet to be answered concerns one of UNC's most pivotal players in Henson.

    Will his left wrist sufficiently heal in time for the tournament? Could UNC be knocked out of the tourney due to Henson's injury just as Syracuse might due to Melo's ineligibility?

    The President is clearly willing to take a chance on UNC, mentioning during his ESPN segment that, "this is all premised that Henson can play."

     

    These are his Final Four selections:

    No. 1 Kentucky
    No. 2 Missouri

    No. 2 Ohio State
    No. 1 North Carolina 

National Championship: Tar Heels Win It All

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    National Championship

     

    Kentucky vs. North Carolina 

    In a somewhat unexpected move, President Obama chose the North Carolina Tar Heels to win the 2012 NCAA Tournament, crediting their experience and the fact that an older team can play better in the clutch.

    If this materializes, the Wildcats vs. Tar Heels National Championship game will be a rematch of the Dec. 3, 2011 Kentucky vs. North Carolina contest in which the Wildcats won 73-72.

    ESPN analyst Jay Bilas criticized UNC's ability to keep up with the Wildcats in that game, stating that the 'Heels used the three-ball to come within one point of forcing OT in December, a perimeter shot that had not been reliable for them. 

    In the end, here is the raw statistical comparison:

    Points per Game: Advantage UNC (82.0 vs. 77.1)
    Rebounds per Game: Advantage UNC (45.2 vs. 39.2)
    Assists per Game: Advantage UNC (17.6 vs. 13.3)
    Field Goal Percentage: Advantage UK (48.7 percent vs. 46.3 percent)
    Free Throw Percentage: Advantage UK (72.3 percent vs. 67.6 percent)
    3-point Percentage: Advantage UK (38.0 percent vs. 34.4 percent)
    Blocks per Game: Advantage UK (Nine vs. six)

    Though it appears that Kentucky has the edge, the President decided to revisit his first season of Baracketology in 2009, when he successfully picked UNC to win it all.

    Will it work out for him in 2012?

    Let's watch some March Madness!