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Obama Bracket: Breaking Down the President's Picks in 2013

Jake CurtisFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

Obama Bracket: Breaking Down the President's Picks in 2013

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    After years of pundits saying we should take politics out of sports, ESPN has injected politics into sports by having President Barack Obama make his NCAA tournament predictions.

    ESPN cleverly labeled the bracket filled out by the President as Barack-etology.

    Here is the bracket as it was filled out by the President.

    Was he bold in his predictions? Did he demonstrate the basketball expertise he claims to have? Was political motivation behind some of his picks?

    We take a lighthearted look at the President's picks, presenting eight categories of note.

Best Pick: Wisconsin

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    The President picked fifth-seeded Wisconsin to beat No. 1-seeded Gonzaga and get to the Elite Eight.

    That's the pick of an expert.

    The Bulldogs have not faced the competition in the West Coast Conference that the Badgers did in the Big Ten. The President admitted he's partial to the Big Ten this season, and it shows here.

    The Badgers' patient, disciplined style will be a problem for Gonzaga, which lacks a true point guard. The President apparently is aware of all that.

    Of course, Wisconsin has to get past a hot Mississippi team first.

Worst Pick: Florida

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    The President picked No. 3 Florida to get to the Final Four.

    Maybe foreign-policy concerns have distracted him from what's been going on in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators' recent play and their poor results in tight games does not suggest they'll be making the trip to Atlanta for the national semifinals.

    Florida is just 5-4 in its last nine games. A bigger concern in a single-elimination format in which close games are inevitable is that the Gators are 0-6 this season in games decided by six points or less.

    Florida has the benefit of being in a relatively weak regional, but things would have to turn around in a hurry for it to get to the Final Four.

Boldest Pick: La Salle/Boise State

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    The President didn't even know which team would play fourth-seeded Kansas State in the Wildcats' opener when he picked them to lose.

    Maybe intelligence officers have provided the President with some inside knowledge about No. 13 seeds Boise State and La Salle, who met in a First Four game on Wednesday for the right to meet Kansas State

    Maybe the fact that Kansas cast its six electoral votes for Mitt Romney in the presidential election had something to do with it. You will note the President picked Kansas to lose in the third round.

    More likely, he just doesn't think much of Kansas State, even though the Wildcats tied Kansas for the regular-season Big 12 title.

    In any case, picking an undetermined No. 13 seed to beat Kansas State in Kansas City, Mo., is a courageous choice.

Biggest Positive Bias: Big Ten

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    The President made it clear he's impressed by the Big Ten this season.

    "I really do think the Big Ten was far and away the best conference," he said to ESPN's Andy Katz in explaining his picks.

    Hey, he represented Illinois in the Senate. What do you expect?

    The President not only picked five Big Ten teams to get to the Sweet 16, but he had four get to the Elite Eight, only two of whom are seeded to get that far.

    He selected two Big Ten teams—Ohio State and Indiana—to get to the Final Four, then picked Indiana to win it all.

Biggest Negative Bias: Pac-12

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    The President avoided any mention of the Pac-12 in his comments, which was politically wise because he didn't show the conference any respect in his selections.

    He picked all five Pac-12 teams to lose in the first round, and that included losses by No. 6 UCLA to No. 11 Minnesota and No. 6 Arizona to No. 11 seed Belmont.

    It's somewhat surprising because four of those schools are located in states that went for Obama in the election. Arizona is the only state representing a Pac-12 NCAA tournament team that favored Mitt Romney in November.

    Furthermore, the President didn't give much love to the West Coast in general.

    Gonzaga and New Mexico were the only two West teams he had getting to the second weekend, and none made it to the Elite Eight.  He noted he almost picked Belmont to upset No. 3-seeded New Mexico, and No. 1-seeded Gonzaga was eliminated in the round of 16 in the President's bracket.

    He went to high school in Hawaii, so you'd think he'd give the West Coast teams a little more credit.

Possible Political Motivation

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    The President picked two schools from Florida—Miami and Florida—to get to the Elite Eight, with Florida getting all the way to the Final Four.

    Might that be a bit of quid pro quo for his close victory over Mitt Romney in the swing state of Florida during the election?

    Or could it be a preemptive political strike against Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a potential Republican candidate for the Presidency in 2016?

    The President could not stretch any such political leanings to pick No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown.

Best Explanation for a Pick

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    The President wore a green tie while explaining his picks, noting he was hosting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on St. Patrick's Day.

    That did not prevent him from joking that Notre Dame's garish green uniforms  were part of the reason he picked the Irish to lose in the second round.

    "That neon glow thing wasn't working for me," he said.

    Finally, we have a leader whose aesthetic judgment we can trust.

Conservatism in a Liberal

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    President Obama is said to have a liberal bent politically, but he went conservative in his picks for the national championship.

    None of the teams he picked for the Sweet 16 is seeded worse than fifth, and the two teams he picked to meet in the finals—Louisville and Indiana—are seeded first and third overall, respectively.

    That's not exactly going out on a limb.

    Furthermore, he had only one team from outside one of the six power conferences—New Mexico—making it to the second weekend. He admitted he almost had the Lobos losing in the second round.

    Perhaps he knows that it's been 23 years since a team from outside a power conferences won a national title.

    The President took the conservative approach, going with chalk and tradition, with no suggestion of shaking up the status quo.

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