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DIANE PUCIN ON SPORTS MEDIA

The Pac-10 doesn't get the president's vote

Obama predicts five of the conference's six teams will lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

March 19, 2009|DIANE PUCIN | ON SPORTS MEDIA

Let's see. President Obama's NCAA tournament bracket predicts UCLA, USC, California, Arizona and Arizona State will all be first-round losers. Pacific 10 Conference champion Washington? Gone in the second round, upset loser to Purdue.

What's up with that?

"I know why he didn't pick us," USC Coach Tim Floyd said Wednesday before getting on a plane to Minneapolis, where, according to the president, the Trojans will lose to Boston College. "He's a Chicago Bulls fan. He was in Chicago when I was coaching the Bulls. He thinks I can't coach, and that's understandable."

All in good fun, and to keep a promise, Obama went on ESPN's "SportsCenter" Wednesday and presented reporter Andy Katz with a filled-in NCAA men's tournament bracket. North Carolina is going to win, according to the leader of the free world. Louisville, Memphis and Pittsburgh will join the Tar Heels in the Final Four. And the Pac-10 will be 1-5 after Round 1 and totally eliminated from the tournament after Round 2.

And Obama's brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, coaches in the conference at Oregon State. One can only surmise that Obama watched Oregon State lose at Howard, 47-45, in December and figured any league where the Beavers could win seven games wasn't very good.

Floyd also has a reason why Obama seems to have an anti-Pac-10 bias.

"He's from Hawaii," Floyd said. "Every athlete from Hawaii thinks he should be recruited by the Pac-10. The president wasn't good enough, but he should let go of his anger. He needs to move past it."

Floyd was joshing of course, having a little fun same as Obama, whose bracket was complete with some crossed-out choices (he had UCLA, for example, then scribbled over the sixth-seeded Bruins and picked 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth).

Obama gave Katz his reasoning for picking the UCLA upset. "You know, VCU, I think, has been playing strong and I hate to say this, because my brother-in-law is in the Pac-10 right now, but the Pac-10 has been looking pretty weak this year," Obama said. "I like that as an upset."

Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar, whose team is seeded fourth in the West Regional and therefore favored to win at least two games, said he enjoyed watching the president revel in bracket fever but did suggest Obama may have suffered from "selective amnesia" when choosing to have the Huskies ousted by Purdue.

As for his national champion pick, Obama went with North Carolina. North Carolina has lately been a swing state, swaying between Republican and Democratic majorities.

Floyd said it was probably easy for Obama to pick all four California schools that are in the draw -- USC, UCLA, Cal and Cal State Northridge -- as first-round losers.

"He's going to win California every time," Floyd said. "Not a contest. He doesn't have to worry about California votes."

Katz said his sense was that Obama had filled out his own bracket, that he knew North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson and Pittsburgh point guard Levance Fields were battling injuries. "I think the president is like every other fan filling out a bracket," Katz said. "He agonized over some choices, he crossed some out, changed his mind."

Katz had spoken to Obama last year about his suggestion that college football needed a playoff system. During the interview, Katz asked that if Obama were elected he come back to ESPN with his NCAA bracket.

Last weekend Katz tried to talk to all 65 coaches in the tournament, but he couldn't get California Coach Mike Montgomery and settled for an assistant.

"So you can say it was easier to get the president than it was to get Coach Montgomery," Katz said.

And leave it to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to sum up his feelings about Obama leaving the Blue Devils out of the Final Four. "As much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something he should focus on more than the brackets," he said.

Coach K was kidding too. We think.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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See President Obama's tournament bracket

Get there through the Fabulous Forum at http://latimesblogs .latimes.com/sports_blog/2009/03/white-house-blo.html

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