For the second consecutive year, President Barack Obama is picking Kansas to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game April 4. He is predicting the Jayhawks will defeat Ohio State in the Championship Game. He revealed the picks in an exclusive interview with ESPN.com senior basketball writer Andy Katz on Tuesday, March 15. President Obama also filled out his women’s bracket with ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke. That segment will debut on SportsCenter on Friday, March 18, at 9 p.m. and will re-air throughout the day.
The feature with Katz debuted today, Wednesday, March 16, at noon on SportsCenter and will re-air on every edition today on ESPN and ESPNEWS as well as Thursday’s 1 a.m. and subsequent morning shows, all on ESPN.
The president’s entire men’s bracket, the feature that debuted on today’s SportsCenter, a behind-the-scenes video of the White House and President Obama making his picks, and Katz’s blog are available on ESPN.com. ESPN.com will post the interview of President Obama completing his women’s bracket with Burke following the original airing on SportsCenter on Friday, March 18, at 9 p.m.
In 2010, the Men’s Tournament Challenge game was the most popular bracket game in the nation with nearly 5.4 million entries, breaking the previous record high of 5.0 million brackets set in 2009. President Obama’s 2010 men’s bracket ranked 2,337,604 overall, placing him in the 51st percentile out of the 5.4 million entries in the ESPN Tournament Challenge. While he didn’t predict any of the Final Four teams last year, he correctly picked North Carolina to win the National Championship in 2009. President Obama placed in the 67th percentile for his women’s bracket entry last year.
Both the Men’s Tournament Challenge presented by State Farm and Sprint and Women’s Tournament Challenge games return for their 14th seasons and are free for fans to submit up to ten entries on ESPN.com. Participants complete and submit a bracket of tournament game outcomes and points are awarded for each correct pick, with point values increasing as the tournaments progress.
Notable Quotes from Katz’s Interview with President Obama:
President Obama opened up with a plea for bracket participants to keep the people of Japan front of mind:
President Obama: “So one thing I wanted to make sure that viewers who are filling out their brackets — this is a great tradition, we have fun every year doing it — but while you’re doing it, if you’re on your laptop, et cetera, go to usaid.gov, usaid.gov, and that’s going to list a whole range of charities where you can potentially contribute to help the people who have been devastated in Japan. I think that would be a great gesture as you’re filling out your brackets. They can help out some people who are really going through a hard time.”
On picking all four number one seeds for Final Four:
President Obama: “It’s never happened. I have never picked all number one seeds. As I said, if this bracket were a little different, I might pick it a little different.”
On Purdue-Notre Dame matchup:
Katz: “So this is an interesting in-state rivalry. Purdue and Notre Dame. What do you like there?”
President Obama: “Tough one. But in the end I think that Purdue is going to be able to pull it out.”
On BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and matchup against Florida:
Katz: “I know you’ve been extremely busy. Have you had any kind of chance to see Jimmer Fredette from BYU?”
President Obama: “Unbelievable. Best scorer, obviously, in the country. Great talent, but they’ve lost their inside presence. I think Florida is going to end up winning this one.”
On Duke against Arizona:
President Obama: “Last year, I did not pick Duke and Coach K gave me a hard time, so I’m going with Duke getting to the Elite Eight.”
On Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and matchup against San Diego State:
Katz: “UConn against upstart San Diego State. Now, did you catch any of Kemba Walker running through the Big East Tournament?”
President Obama: “I saw Kemba Walker — the guy plays like a pro already. So I’ve got to go with Connecticut, as good as San Diego State is.”
On Ohio State against North Carolina:
President Obama: “As much as I love Roy Williams, I think Ohio State has got the talent this year to keep on going.”
On Duke against Connecticut:
Katz: “Duke against Connecticut. Nolan Smith against Kemba Walker. Who do you like in that one?”
President Obama: “I’m going to pick Duke, mainly because I think Connecticut, other than Kemba Walker, is a really young team.”
Kansas against Pittsburgh in the semifinals:
President Obama: “That’s Kansas. They keep on going. They’re on a mission.”
Ohio State against Duke in the semifinal:
President Obama: “And I’m going to pick Ohio State.”
Katz: “It’s always good to have new champions come to the White House.”
President Obama: “Absolutely.”
Quotes on his Championship Game matchup:
President Obama: “And I’m picking Kansas, just because I think they’re deeper. I think that Kansas has more firepower.”
Katz: “Well, I went with Ohio State, but this year you go with Kansas — after last year?”
President Obama: “After last year. Look, here’s what happened. I picked North Carolina, they lost. The next year they won for me. I think Kansas is going to do the same thing. They always feel bad about losing when the President picks them. They’re going to go all the way.”
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