It’s that time of the year again.
March Madness has finally arrived.
The time of the year when sports fans play hooky from work, non-sports fans try to decipher what schools like UTEP stand for (The University of Texas at El Paso in case you’re wondering) and President Obama takes time out from drafting up legislation to fill out his NCAA Tournament bracket.
An avid basketball fan, the president successfully picked the eventual national champion last year, the University of North Carolina, but he struggled in the first round of the tournament, correctly picking 19 of 32 games.
Dubbed “Barack-etology” by the folks over at ESPN, Obama filled out his bracket this week with ESPN.com reporter Andy Katz at The White House. In case you waited until the very last minute to fill out your bracket, here are three upsets in the opening round of the tournament from the commander-in-chief:
#13 Murray State over #4 Vanderbilt: The 30-4 Racers are a balanced team with five players averaging double figures. But if you’re looking for a bad omen, Murray State guard B.J. Jenkins suffered a cut on the index finger of his non-shooting hand while helping cut down the net, requiring staples. Vanderbilt finished second in the Southeastern Conference behind #1 seed Kentucky. Murray State will have their hands full with the combination of Commodores center A.J. Ogilvy and guard Jermaine Beal.
#12 Cornell over #5 Temple: The chic pick in this year’s tournament are the Cornell Big Red. ESPN’s Jay Bilas even has them advancing to the Elite Eight. While that might be a bit of a stretch, a victory over Temple is within reach for the Ivy League champions. Keep an eye on Big Red senior forward Ryan Wittman, averaging nearly 18 points a game. At the end of the day, this is still the Ivy League we are talking about. If this were a chess tournament, give me Cornell all day, but this is the NCAA Tournament we’re talking about. Temple has won three-straight Atlantic 10 conference titles for a reason. Don’t make me and Bill Cosby look bad, fellas.
#13 Siena over #4 Purdue: This is one of the few times where the higher seed winning would be considered somewhat of an upset. Purdue lost their team leader and second leading scorer in Robbie Hummel when he tore his ACL against Minnesota on Feb. 24. The Boilermakers squeaked past the Golden Gophers on that day but were humiliated when the two schools met last weekend in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, scoring just 11 points in the first half and trailing by 34 at one point. Four of Siena’s six losses were against teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament (Butler, Georgia Tech, Temple, Northern Iowa). Let’s also not forget that the Saints have shocked the world the last two years in March, defeating #4 seed Vanderbilt in 2008 and #8 seed Ohio State last season.
WATCH ‘COUNTDOWN’ COVERAGE OF OBAMA’S BRACKET:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”35921516″ id=”msnbc40f2bd”]
After the first round, the president plays it pretty conservatively, advancing all but two of the higher seeded teams on his bracket on to the Sweet 16, snubbing the local Maryland Terrapins along th3 way. With the exception of #3 seed Georgetown, Obama has nothing but #1 and #2 seeds advancing to the Elite Eight.
Here is where things finally get interesting. If you remember back to last year when Obama, like any rational college basketball fan outside of Durham, N.C. (aka Duke haters), picked Pittsburgh over the Blue Devils to advance to the Final Four, upsetting head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Somebody said that we’re not in President Obama’s Final Four, Krzyzewski said last year. “As much as I respect what he’s doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets.”
Coach K can substitute economy for health care and he could deliver the same sound bite this year as Obama has #2 seed Villanova knocking out #1 seed Duke to advance to the Final Four. (Duke losing is the one thing both Democrats and Republicans can agree on.)
The rest of his Final Four includes #1 seed Kansas, in the Midwest, #2 seed Kansas State in the West and #1 seed Kentucky in the East. In a rematch of the coaches from the 2008 national championship game, Obama has #1 seed Kansas and Bill Self defeating #1 seed Kentucky and John Calipari to win the NCAA title.
As much as I would have loved to see the president go out on a limb and pick the Baylor Bears to win it all, it’s hard to argue against the Jayhawks, who have been the most consistent team in college basketball this season.
Now, back to that health care bill, President Obama…