There have been sports loving Presidents before, notably Gerald Ford, but I doubt that there has been anyone quite like our current President. Others go through the ritual of inviting Championship winning teams to the White House but sometimes it seems more like an exercise in PR or because it is a tradition that they have to continue. I can’t remember any president prior to Obama not only picking a winner but actually filling out the NCAA basketball grid.
The President has picked Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Memphis to make it to the Final Four with North Carolina going on to defeat Louisville in the final.Apparently he flip-flopped on the final , having first picked Louisville to edge North Carolina before calling it the other way around. Some sportswriters have called his picks very conservative since three of his choices are # 1 seeds and the fourth ( Memphis ) is a #2 seed. I don’t think the President’s picks are so much conservative as smart. The President, who impressed reporters with his detailed knowledge of the contenders teams, knows that most years the Champions have been from among the higher seeds, usually the # 1’s and # 2’s .Surprises do occur in the early rounds and sometimes a Cinderella team like Gonzaga or West Virginia may make it to the Round of 8, but no further.
I filled in my grid the day it was first published( Monday) and I did it without looking at anyone else’s picks.My picks mirror the Presidents’ choices very closely. My choices are Louisville, Memphis, Duke and North Carolina with Memphis defeating North Carolina in the final. The only difference between the President’s picks and mine(upto the Final Four stage) is that I have Duke beating Pittsburgh to make the Final Four and he has it the other way around. I will admit that my picking Duke to beat Pittsburgh is perhaps wishful thinking. I like Duke and Coach K and I have a sentimental attachment for them because the only time I won the office pool was because I picked Duke to win it all. I also thought Pittsburgh was unimpressive in losing to West Virginia in the Big East tournament.
Let the games begin !