March Madness: Obama picks McCain's team to lose in first round

President Obama talks hoops with University of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams in a photo from last year. The president selected the Tar Heels to win the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament this year.

There are times when you have to put partisan politics aside for the good of the country. And this is one those times.

Although woefully wrong in selecting Memphis to topple UConn in the Western regional, President Obama deserves a standing O-vation for participating in March Madness.

You know, getting in the office pool. Picking who you think will go all the way to the Final Four in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It's an American tradition. Possibly the finest.

Good TV

Following through on a campaign promise to give ESPN the exclusive look at his brackets if elected, the President invited Andy Katz from the sports network into the Map Room of the White House to unveil his selections.

It's smart. He's got a high enough approval rating where the American public will let him get away with it.

Although there will be screams of "Focus on the economy!" and "Get our money back from AIG!", and "Charles Grassley is right!" it's OK to do this now. If his approval rating dips below 50 (it always fluctuates), it would be far riskier to pull off.

Case in point: BarneyCam in 2003 versus BarneyCam in 2008.

His picks

He went all chalk!

That's what some sports enthusiasts are yelling today after looking at the president's picks.

For non-March Madness fans (how is this possible?), that means he played it safe. Didn't pick the upsets. Take a look at his brackets here.

Sure, the president selected Louisville, North Carolina, Memphis and Pittsburgh to advance to the Final Four, but they're not all number ones. But close enough. Memphis is second ranked and it wouldn't have surprised anyone if they were seeded No. 1.

The problem with playing it safe is that there will always be Bucknells, Davidsons, and George Masons. That's what makes the tournament great.


But he didn't do that entirely.

In the first round he did pick No. 11 VCU over No. 6 UCLA.

"VCU, I think, has been playing strong, and I hate to say this, because my brother-in-law is in the Pac-10 right now, but the Pac-10 has been looking pretty weak this year," Obama said. "I like that as an upset."

The folks over at Bruins Nation ain't happy with this pick.

"Talk about a presidential diss," writes Zinlinez. "Come on now people. First ridiculous members of [mainstream media] and now the leader of the free world?

He chose No. 11 Temple over No. 6 Arizona State in the first round as well.


But it was the selection of Utah over Arizona - not an upset at all - that made Katz wonder if there was a McCain thing going on.

"It has nothing to do with McCain," Obama said. "I think Arizona is a great state. I love playing golf there, but they just squeaked in based on reputation."

The Big Dance

Ask any of the teams on the bubble (especially St. Mary's). They'll agree with that. Arizona getting seeded - all reputation.

The president seems to know his basketball. So, how can you knock his Final Four picks?

In the end, Obama selected North Carolina and Louisville to advance to the big game.

No pressure

If it wasn't nerve-racking enough to participate in the tournament -- let alone the final game -- how about getting a warning from the President of the United States not to blow it?

In selecting North Carolina to win it all, Obama had a message for the team.

"Now, for the Tar Heels who are watching, I picked you all last year -- you let me down," Obama said to the TV cameras. "This year, don't embarrass me in front of the nation, all right?"


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