Just like pretty much everyone else in the country, President Obama fills out an NCAA tournament bracket every year — and to varying results. This year, the world's most powerful basketball fan (sorry, friends of Rodman) has Louisville and Indiana playing in the national title game... with Indiana coming out on top. So, yeah, he's playing it pretty safe. Again. We'll see how that turns out for him.
ESPN released previews Tuesday evening showing the President picking Louisville, Indiana, Florida, and Ohio State as his Final Four teams. But Wednesday morning saw the big reveal in his annual segment with ESPN's Andy Katz (taped before Obama's trip to Israel), and we now know where the President's loyalties lie — or at least what some staffer recommended for him. And, well, there certainly aren't as many swing states in his Final Four as last year. And he's only got one relative reach (Wisconsin) making the Elite Eight. Take a risk, Mr. President!
Most of Obama's "upset" picks this year come in the early rounds and feature No. 9 seeds over No. 8 seeds or ten-seeds over seven-seeds: Cincinnati over Creighton, or Missouri over Colorado State or Oklahoma over San Diego State. Some of his biggest actual upset predictions are No. 11 seeds Minnesota and Belmont coming out on top over No. 6 seeds UCLA and Arizona. But he does have one doozy in the first round: No. 13 BSU/Lasalle over No. 4 Kansas State.
In the later rounds, the President has Michigan taking out No. 1 Kansas, and Wisconsin taking out No. 1 Gonzaga — but who isn't picking that this year? Obama did pick No. 3 Florida to reach the Final Four this year, and that's the first time he's ever dipped so low in his usually safe Final Four pairings.
Of course, the President hasn't always fared very well with his super-safe picks. In 2009, he had a pretty respectable outing and even correctly predicted U.N.C. winning the national championship. But in 2010, he did horribly: his bracket was busted pretty early, and he only got one of a the Final Four teams right... because two of them were No. 5 seeds. In 2011, Obama had three of four Final Four teams but completely whiffed picking which teams were going to make it to the national title game. In 2012, Obama did alright until the later rounds, where he gambled on North Carolina and Ohio State in an election year. Okay, so the President doesn't really gamble, but he's playing along, and he probably doesn't make the picks anyway. Nate Silver has always been better than the White House at picking winners anyway. And nobody's perfect.
Update, Thursday: Track how the President's predictions compare with the actual sports pundits in The 2013 Atlantic Wire Bracket of Celebrity/Pundit Bracket Predictions.