'Barack-Etology': President Obama Picks Kansas to Win NCAA Tournament
Obama Catches March Madness but Health Care, Politics Still Weighs Heavy
March 17, 2010 -- In perhaps the most critical week of his presidency, with health care reform legislation on the line, President Obama, like millions of Americans, took a little time out for March Madness.
Despite his well-known love and deep knowledge of college basketball, Obama did not completely leave politics at the door as he explained his tournament picks.
The hoopster-in-chief picked the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks to win the men's tournament -- a somewhat safe pick from a president who ran on a campaign promising change.
But is his selection of a national champion motivated more by politics than basketball insight?
Obama admitted that he might be influenced by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who served as governor of Kansas.
"She is a fanatical Jayhawks fan. She's a maniac when it comes to the Jayhawks -- talks trash all the time," Obama said of Sebelius.
"I want her to be happy when she's working on these important issues here," Obama said, pointing out the key role Sebelius plays in the current health care debate.
Personal connections also figured in to Obama's picks, but only through the first three rounds. Obama's personal aide, Reggie Love, was a member of Duke's 2001 national championship team.
Admitting that he was to some extent "brainwashed" by Love, Obama picked Duke to win three games and reach the tournament's Elite Eight before losing to second-seed Villanova.
"Finally break away from Reggie Love," the president said about putting Villanova in his Final Four. "Nova's guards are too quick."
Apparently unconcerned about the possibility of a bracket-busting Cinderella, Obama's Final Four -- Kansas, Kentucky, Kansas State and Villanova -- is composed of two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds.
His national runner-up pick is Kentucky, pitting two No. 1 seeds in a championship game that will certainly be replicated on thousands of brackets across the country.
"I love Kentucky's freshman," the president said about the Wildcats' John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, both considered among the most effective players in the game this year.