US President Barack Obama has selected the Indiana University Hoosiers as his choice to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament this year.
The annual presidential pick was revealed on Wednesday on ESPN in a session videotaped on Tuesday, two days after the bracket for the national championship known affectionately as “March Madness” was announced.
“I think this is Indiana’s year,” Obama said after saying he favored the Big Ten squad to face Big East rivals University of Louisville Cardinals in the April 8 final. “These are the two best teams right now.”
Obama correctly picked two of last year’s Final Four teams, Ohio State and Kentucky, although his choice for champions, North Carolina, lost in the quarter-finals.
US collegiate sports are big business for schools, with the hunger for multimillion-dollar TV rights fees having sparked expansion among the most powerful sporting schools in recent years.
Victor Oladipo, the son of Nigerian parents from Washington, is the leading playmaker for the Hoosiers. The 20-year-old guard averaged 13.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game as Indiana went 27-6 this season.
Indiana are the top seeds in the East region, while Louisville are the top seeds in the Midwest.
Obama picked Indiana to defeat South region third seeds Florida in one semi-final and Louisville to oust West second seeds Ohio State in the other.
Obama said West top seed Gonzaga, a team with five players from outside the US that was rated No. 1 in the nation in a USA Today coaches’ poll, would be eliminated by fifth seeds Wisconsin in the round-of-16.
Kelly Olynyk, a long-haired 2.13m center from Canada, leads the Bulldogs, with help from Canadian guard Kevin Pangos, German forward Elias Harris, Polish center Przemek Karnowski and the Ivory Coast’s Guy Landry Edi.
“Even though Olynyk is a great big man, has great hair, does a great job, I think Wisconsin pulls the upset,” Obama said. “The Big Ten was far and away the best conference this year.”
Obama said he put Syracuse University into the “Sweet 16” on the advice of US Vice President Joe Biden, saying: “Biden told me if I didn’t pick them he wouldn’t talk to me.”