For the third year in a row, President Barack Obama has released his NCAA Basketball March Madness brackets. This year’s men’s edition sees a lot of key presidential qualities, which I will point out shortly. I will also be reporting by round on the progress of America’s most famous brackets, for the men’s tournament, like I did in previous years (2010, 2009). I will report in terms of the President’s Barackets performance against all those who entered in various large pools like those from CBS and ESPN. So please come back here and join me in checking da Prez’s Barackets progress after each round.
Below is President Obama’s Barackets for 2011, with a video of his reasoning for his picks. Have a look for yourself, then see why I see a lot of presidential qualities in his picks.
Playing it safe
This year’s March Madness tournament has the potential to be the most wide open in years without an overwhelming favourite to win it all, and lots of upsets everywhere else. In volatile times, it is best to play it safe and keep some sanity amidst the insanity. This probably won’t win you any March Madness pools, unless da Prez has extraordinary insight into this year’s outcomes. However, playing it safe may allow you to sail through ahead of most of the pack, and that’s what da Prez needs to do. He barely managed to do that last year, finishing ahead of 51.1% of ESPN brackets, so he has little margin of error when it comes to doing worse for the good of his image. As little as predicting March Madness pools well has anything to do with being President, taking risks to potentially end up being seen as a loser is not something a lot of politicians like to do. Of course, Obama is no regular politicians, and I love him for stepping out to put up his Barackets each year.
In a year where there can be lots of upsets, President Obama picked all four #1 seeds to be in the Final Four. That rarely happens, but chances are 2 or 3 will probably make it so why risk figuring out which ones and maybe getting more than 1 or 2 choices incorrect? Besides, lots of people will go down with you any time a #1 seed goes out, like Kansas did last year.
Don’t upset lots of people
When you pick upsets, you’re basically saying you don’t agree with someone’s rankings. You’re upsetting them, as well as the faithfuls to the higher ranked team that they deserved that ranking. Picking upsets basically gets a lot of people upset at you.
I don’t know if Obama’s current popularity in the polls has had any influence on his picks, but Obama’s picks this year won’t be upsetting too many people. He only picked 2 of 16 teams which rank suggests should not be in the Sweet 16. Both were #5 ranked teams so no big deal there. Da Prez picked Kansas State over Wisconsin and Arizona over Texas, neither of which #4 teams have been playing well of late so they were easy to justify.
Two number 3 teams made it to da Prez’s Elite Eight, UConn after its recent remarkable run in the Big East Tournament, in San Diego State’s backyard (not going for it) and Purdue over #2 Notre Dame (still thinking about it).
Even in the early rounds, Obama only has a few upsets, with Richmond over Vanderbilt (which I’m agreeing with) and two #11s winning. They were Marquette over Xavier on the latter’s home court, essentially (disagree), and the ever popular Gonzaga Cinderella pick (disagree) for some magical runs it hasn’t made in a while. A few more smaller ranking upsets of #10s Michigan State (agree) and Florida State (not sure) winning pretty much rounds out any turbulence in da Prez’s 2011 Barackets.
I have more upsets in the early rounds than you’d probably care to know as you’ve probably only read this far for Obama’s Barackets analysis, not mine. When I finalize my brackets, I will post a copy here.
Don’t show obvious favoritism or partisanism
In the ESPN picks video, Obama said Coack K of Duke was disappointed da Prez didn’t pick Duke to win it all last year, or to even go that far. That was probably when Duke showed up to the White House for the obligatory visit as champions. As a result, the POTUS picked Duke to go to the Final Four this year so there was some probably favoritism going on there. However, that took a whole story to explain.
A little more obvious would have been da Prez picking #9 Illinois over #8 UNLV. #8 and #9 seeds are as much a flip of the coin as any match up so there would be no risk to go either way. However, politically rising from Chicago, Illinois, Obama avoided the obvious partisanism to pick Illinois, where he doesn’t need more support. In Washington, with all the political battles going on, accusations of partisanism run rampant so this pick, I think, was a political move to show da Prez is trying to play fairly.
But that wasn’t too strong a message, so da Prez also picked Arizona for a couple of rounds, with Arizona being former rival John McCain’s home state. A subtle way to send a message denying partisanism, perhaps? You decide, but I’m betting on it. Memphis was not only a popular 12-5 upset pick, but da Prez even picked Arizona over the slightly stumbling, but potentially dangerous #4 Texas Longhorns with “home court advantage” to play for if they reach the Final Four in Houston. The pick in Arizona really sends a strong non-partisan message, but it is also a small degree of the next characteristic shown in da Prez’s pick, forgiveness.
While Kansas had its early exit last year decimate Obama’s Barackets, it also decimated many others’. That included my brackets, though I finished ahead of 77.5% of poolers. Obama realized it was his other, less safe picks, which ultimately led to his Barackets’ demise, so he forgave Kansas to pick it as his eventual winner again. While not the #1 overall ranked team in the tournament, Kansas is #2 and has a better record than #1 overall Ohio State.
I’m not as kind, opting for North Carolina… but then again, I’m not the President of the United States, either.
Kansas’ pick to be champions by da Prez showed Obama’s faith in the group he had last year to be able to rebound and learn from its failure and be better for it.
I’m showing faith in picking the underdog North Carolina, but I do believe they can play against anybody, and can win close games.
Please do come back to this site after each round for analysis of Obama’s Barackets progress!