US President and avid basketball fan, Barack Obama’s March Madness picks always receive extra scrutiny. Let’s take a look.
While it’s not appropriate for the president to bet on sports in America, there’s nothing wrong with some harmless predictions. US President Barack Obama’s March Madness picks tend to reflect his most basic personality trait: risk aversion. As both a statesmen and predictor of basketball games he tends to make the most obvious, no-brainer choices and shies away from situations which ask him to make difficult choices. We won’t go too deeply into his politics here (this is a gambling site, anyway), but taking a look at past March Madness choices, he rarely makes controversial choices. Since entering the oval office in early 2009 he has chosen a #1 seed to win the title every year. As we will soon see, 2014 will be no exception.
Revisiting Barry’s 2013 choices
Last year Obama’s March Madness bracket finished in the 75th percentile, which is surprising, because Obama only selected one of the Final Four teams correctly. He did accurately predict that the final game would include Louisville, although his national champion, Indiana, lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16. All around, his Final Four predictions included two #1 seeds and one #2 and #3 each. The real outcome featured a lot more upset games than most predicted, including unheard of #9 seed Wichita State making it all the way to the Final Four where it lost to eventual champion Louisville.
Trying to make good on campaign promises
Okay, Obama never promised the American people that he would select all of the games correctly. But if he can’t predict basketball games, how can one expect him to predict the outcomes of major foreign policy decisions? Policymaking is not unlike filling out a bracket. You make a series of crucial decisions at one point in time, and you hope that the dominoes fall in your favor.
• Last year Barack Obama picked only one of the Final Four teams correctly, however his bracket finished in the 75th percentile
• His bracket has very few upset games, reflecting his risk-averse personality
• Obama’s Fina Four: #1 Florida, #1 Arizona, #4 Michigan State, #4 Louisville
This time Obama took the conservative route (again) and chose the oddsmaker’s favorite, Florida, to make the Final Four. There isn’t much to criticize about this pick: they’ve only lost two games all year, feature some future NBA players and have a coach, Billy Donavan, who has already won two NCAA championships. The only criticism we have is that it is a boring choice, with 27.6 percent of ESPN bracket challenge participants making the same choice (far more than any other team). One the other side of the bracket he chose fellow #1 Arizona, a highly regarded yet relatively untested team.
After those two obvious choices, his picks get a little more interesting. When something works, why not repeat it? He did this time, choosing Louisville to make a return to the Final Four. The selection committee was not kind to the Cardinals, giving them only a #4 seed. This despite them returning most of their players from last year’s title-winning squad. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called Louisville “one of the best teams in the country” and Cincinnati coach Mike Cronin sounded off: “Louisville got a #4 seed? Is this a joke?” So despite the low seed, Louisville is right up there with any team.
His final pick was an intriguing one: Michigan State. Like Louisville, the Spartans received only a #4 seed. But they are one of the most talented and experienced teams in the country, featuring several future NBA players under the tutelage of legendary coach Tom Izzo. No one would be surprised if they came in and stole the title from higher-ranked teams like Florida, Arizona and Kansas. So while they don’t have a top seed, it is tough to call this a controversial pick.
Other quirky picks
Barry’s bracket does have some unexpected picks. For one, he picked #6 Ohio State to beat #3 Syracuse in the second round. Given that Syracuse was the top-ranked team for much of the season and Ohio State has been wildly inconsistent, I find this pick difficult to wrap my head around. He also chose #6 North Carolina, a talented but young team, to beat #3 Iowa State, one of the most underrated teams in the nation in my opinion.
His biggest upset was choosing his old law school alma mater, #12 Harvard, to beat #5 Cincinnati. We don’t know if he actually thinks they’re going to win, but once in a while you need to throw a bone to your old school. I certainly would have, if my Minnesota Golden Gophers had qualified for the tournament.
Final thoughts on Obama’s March Madness bracket
For the most part we see a bracket that reflects the president’s character: cautious and risk-averse. Five of his Elite Eight teams carry either #1 or #2 seeds, and the only others, Duke, Louisville and Michigan State, have just as good chances of winning as anyone else. His only big upset is Harvard over Cincinnati, and even that will be pretty inconsequential. I would like to see a more brash, devil-may-care type figure in the oval office (or, wait, was that George W. Bush?), but maybe it’s better to have a thinker rather than a doer. He won’t have a perfect March Madness bracket, but maybe he will fare better in 2014.