Obama’s NCAA brackets devoid of upsets, names Kansas big winner

Call it the audacity of chalk. President Obama’s NCAA bracket is conspicuously devoid of upsets, with all of the top seeds in the college basketball championship advancing to the Final Four. Three of those four No. 1 seeds -- Duke, Pittsburgh and Ohio State -- also just so happen to hail from swing states Obama hopes to carry again in 2012.

But the president ultimately picks the team from a deeply red state, Kansas, to win it all, defeating Ohio State in the championship game.

“I think that Kansas has more firepower,” Obama said of the pick.

This is the third year Obama has filled out his tournament brackets before ESPN’s cameras. In 2009, he correctly made North Carolina his championship pick but erred with his choice of Kansas to win it all in 2010. Duke, where Obama’s personal aide, Reggie Love, once played, won last year’s “Big Dance.”

This year, Obama is giving Kansas another shot, saying, “They always feel bad about losing when the president picks them.”


ESPN analyst Andy Katz told ABC News that Obama played it “very conservative” as he made his selections, choosing very few upsets.

Asked by Katz about going with all “chalk,” the president said it was the first time he’d ever done so.

“If this bracket were a little different, I might have picked it a little different,” he said.

Obama is a noted basketball fan and occasionally sneaks off to a court on the White House grounds to shoot hoops with his staff. He flashed some inside knowledge of the tournament field as he made individual selections as well, calling BYU’s Jimmer Fradette a “great talent” and the best scorer in the country. He only picked Pittsburgh to advance as far as he did because they were playing in the “weakest bracket in the tournament.”

Experts in White House communications say this annual tradition is an effective way of presenting the president to an audience that doesn’t follow politics day to day. The subject of brackets came up in two interviews with local television stations Obama recorded Tuesday.

But as the nuclear crisis in Japan grows more dire, gas prices continue to rise and the civil war in Libya rages on, there is some risk in having it appear that the president is diverting his focus.

“Millions of Americans will be filling out a bracket this week, but only one of them is responsible for signing a federal budget, monitoring the crisis in the Middle East and assisting with a major humanitarian effort in Japan,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement. “With all of those pressing issues on the president’s plate, we would be happy to hear the White House explain why filming an ESPN special on the NCAA tournament should be a priority on his public schedule.”

As Obama filmed this year’s segment, he acknowledged that “we are going through incredible changes all around the world.” He also encouraged viewers to visit to find out how they can help the Japanese people.

“That would be a great gesture as you’re filling out your brackets,” he said.

The president also was set to make picks in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.