Ahead of the 2016 NCAA men's basketball tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks earned Wednesday the endorsement of the country's No. 1 fan. President Barack Obama picked the top-seeded squad to win March Madness in his bracket, which has become an annual tradition for the basketball-loving commander-in-chief.
Obama joined ESPN to make his picks as president for the eighth and final time. The Jayhawks might not celebrate the president's pick, however, since Obama has chosen the correct winner just once while in office, which happened when he selected North Carolina in his first year.
Obama's Final Four selections in 2016 were Kansas, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Michigan State. He chose Kansas over North Carolina in the final, and also had the University of Virginia, West Virginia, Duke and Villanova in his Elite Eight. This is Obama's third time picking Kansas to win while in office, and he joked that the team's coach Bill Self needed to pull out a victory for him ahead of the president leaving office in January 2017.
"Bill Self owes me,'' Obama said jokingly while filling out his bracket with ESPN. "I'm putting Kansas in here. Coach, I'm just teasing. I'm not putting pressure on you. But I think the Jayhawks in a squeaker get past UNC.''
Obama makes garbage decision to pick Mich St. over UVA in the Elite 8. (And Kansas to win the whole thing) pic.twitter.com/x9QKDszI6D
— Justin Sink (@justinsink) March 16, 2016
Obama seemed risk-averse in his selections this year, picking just one major upset. He predicted 13-seed Hawaii would top 4-seed Cal, which could be a bit of home-state bias for the Hawaiian native. Obama also picked 10-seeds Pitt and Syracuse to pull off minor first-round upsets. The president said he often goes with proven programs that have a history of winning.
"I have a tendency to pick the coach as much as anything, because typically these days, with one and done, what you see is continuity with the program,'' Obama told ESPN. "Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski at Duke] or coach [Michigan State's Tom] Izzo or coach Self, coach [University of Kentucky coach John] Calipari, they know how to take even their blue-chip freshmen and mold them, so that by the time the tournament comes around they're ready. I haven't always picked the right top four teams, but typically it's been one of the top teams that's ended up winning the tournament.''
Last year, Obama picked Kentucky to win the tournament, who were undefeated and dominant heading into March Madness, but were eventually upset by Wisconsin. The president said that filling out brackets has been fun for him and that March Madness shows "college sports at its best can bring people together.''