Barack Obama Bracket: Grading the President's Picks for the 2014 NCAA Tournament

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 19, 2014

President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine, Monday, March 17, 2014, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. The president imposed sanctions against Russian officials, including advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

We trust him with our national security, but should we trust President Barack Obama with our bracket?

For the sixth straight year, the POTUS joined ESPN's Andy Katz for a segment they have called "Barack-etology," during which President Obama makes his picks for the NCAA tournament.

Also for the sixth straight year, half of the people in the country thought they were being original by tweeting about all the things the president should be doing instead of filling out a bracket. Feel free to do a Twitter search for "Obama's bracket" if you're curious how far some people take their First Amendment rights.

Over the past few seasons, the President's bracket hasn't been the greatest. He has correctly predicted just four of the past 16 teams to make the Final Four. He hasn't gotten his national champion right since North Carolina won it all in 2009.

To be fair, though, nobody had anything close to a perfect Final Four in 2011 when the teams were third-seeded Connecticut, fourth-seeded Kentucky, eighth-seeded Butler and 11th-seeded VCU. And frankly, if we judged everyone's bracket as harshly as we judge the President's, about 80 percent of ESPN's on-air staff would be out of a job.

Plus, I somehow doubt the President has watched the hundreds (thousands?) of hours of college basketball that we have absorbed over the past four months.

Despite that fact, I believe President Obama knocked it out of the park with his picks.

As he told Andy Katz while filling out the bracket, "I know these are not imaginative picks, but I think they're the right ones."

Let's take a look at the report card.


Mar 16, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida Gators forward Will Yeguete (15) center Patric Young (4) and forward Casey Prather (24) react as time expires and their team defeat the Kentucky Wildcats in the championship game for the SEC college basketball tourn
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

South Region: B+

We certainly can't argue with the President's selection of the No. 1 overall seed to come out of the South Region. Florida is perhaps the most popular pick to win it all this year.

In the bottom half of that region, he's putting a lot of faith in both Kansas' ability to play without Joel Embiid for the first two games, and in his ability to be back and better than ever for the Sweet 16.

In 10 of the past 13 tournaments, exactly two of the eight No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have been eliminated before the Sweet 16. As such, New Mexico over Kansas is a pretty popular round of 32 pick. Even though they're the No. 2 seed, taking the Jayhawks to win three games is a bold move.

Personally, I have Syracuse in the Final Four, so I'm a little disappointed that President Obama has Jim Boeheim's boys bowing out before the Sweet 16, but it's a rational pick. Syracuse has lost five of its last sevenincluding woeful home losses to Boston College and Georgia Techand has been playing considerably worse than any other team seeded No. 1-4.


Dec 22, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; President Barack Obama, center, talks with friend Bobby Titcomb as Michelle Obama, second from left, and daughter, Sasha, sit along them at Stan Sheriff Center. The First Family attended the Oregon State Beavers vs Akron Z
Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

West Region: A+

Most would agree that the West Region is providing the least amount of difficulty for the top seeds.

Facing the winner of Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State will be no picnic for Arizona, but drawing Kentucky, Memphis or Pittsburgh really wouldn't have been any easier.

According to the folks over at, Arizona is the No. 1 seed that is most likely to make the Final Four. The Wildcats were given a 42 percent chance of appearing in the national semifinalsmarginally ahead of Florida (41 percent), but much better than Virginia (23 percent) or Wichita State (14 percent).

Good call by the President to have them advancing to the Final Four.

In the other half of the South Region, he said during the interview with Katz that Wisconsin over Creighton was one of his toughest picks of the entire tournament. And rightly so.

If we were more confident in Creighton's ability to get past Baylor in the round of 32, perhaps that pairing would warrant deeper dissection right now. But Wisconsin should have a much easier journey to the Sweet 16, and should thus be picked to win what might otherwise be a coin flip situation.


INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 16:   Gary Harris #14 and Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates after the 69-55 win over the Michigan Wolverines  during the finals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 16,
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

East Region: A+

His picks in this region don't match up with mine anywhere near as much as they did in the West Region, but I like them nonetheless.

In particular, I champion his decision to have North Carolina knocking out Iowa State. I'm going to get a lot of hate mail from the people in Ames if the Cyclones make the Final Four, but I don't even have them winning a single game in this year's tournament.

Michigan State has been a very trendy pick to win it all, and the President followed suit. Not only does he have the Spartans coming out of the East, but he has Tom Izzo and company cutting down the nets in Arlington.

In most seasons, picking a No. 4 seed to win it all would be crazy. This year, having a pair of No. 4 seeds facing off in the championship game might be the most popular title pairing in brackets across the country.


MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 15: Russ Smith #2 and Chris Jones #3 of the Louisville Cardinals walk towards the bench against the Connecticut Huskies during the Championship of the American Athletic Conference Tournament at FedExForum on March 15, 2014 in Memphis,
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Midwest Region: B+

Outside of Massachusetts over either Iowa or Tennessee in the second round, there aren't any picks here that I steadfastly disagree with. He definitely took some risks in this region. After having a predominantly chalky Elite Eight in the other regions, he has No. 4 Louisville and No. 3 Duke battling for a trip to the Final Four.

But I would have liked to see more risk in this one, because there's always one region that just goes completely haywire.

Last season, the West's representatives in the Sweet 16 were second-seeded Ohio State, sixth-seeded Arizona, ninth-seeded Wichita State and 13th-seeded La Salle. Even in the 2008 tournament when we had nothing but No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, we still had a pretty crazy region in the Midwest. There were four double-digit seeds that won in the second round and a No. 10 (Davidson) and a No. 12 (Villanova) which advanced to the Sweet 16.

Embrace the madness, Mr. President!

If you've got Wichita State losing in the Sweet 16, why not mix it up and have the Shockers losing one round earlier to Kentucky? Same goes for Michigan in the bottom half of the region. Aside from a couple of No. 6 seeds, President Obama has nothing but No. 1-4 seeds in the Sweet 16.

If that actually did happen, Warren Buffett might start getting a wee bit nervous. 


Jan 8, 2014; Storrs, CT, USA; Harvard Crimson forward Kyle Casey (30) shoots against Connecticut Huskies forward Tyler Olander (10) in the second half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. UConn defeated Harvard 61-56. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY S
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Second-round upsets: B-

The upset selections that he did make are among the most popular in the country. President Obama has both Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh advancing to the round of 32 as No. 9 seeds, which is hardly an uncommon pick or an unthinkable outcome.

Elsewhere, he twice followed the rule of taking a No. 12 seed to upset a No. 5 seed, picking North Dakota State over Oklahoma and Harvard over Cincinnati. There's a pretty good chance that both of those will happen. With the No. 5 seeds as vulnerable as they are this year, it wouldn't even be crazy if all four No. 12 seeds pulled off the upset.

He also has No. 10 seed Arizona State knocking off Texas.

Aside from that, though, his entire second round is covered in chalk.

There have been exactly 10 second-round upsets in four of the last five tournaments, but the President has only five.

Then again, if he was picking Eastern Kentucky to the Elite Eight, we would have to seriously question his judgment.


Final Four: A+

People will complain that it's unoriginal, but there's a very good reason why so many people are picking Arizona, Florida, Louisville and Michigan State to reach the Final Four. Those are arguably the four best teams in the country right now.

Take your risks in the early rounds, but go with the hottest teams in the Sweet 16 and beyond.

If Michigan State and Louisville do meet for the national championship, it'll be one for the ages, and the President will look like a bracket-picking genius.


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Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.