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Friday, March 19, 2010

Obama predicts Kansas will win NCAA title

NEW YORK (AP) The First Fan appears to be a big fan of basketball programs from Kansas.

President Barack Obama predicted Kansas and Kansas State to join Kentucky and Villanova in the men's basketball Final Four this season, with the Jayhawks defeating Kentucky for the title.

Obama filled out a bracket for ESPN for the second straight year Wednesday.

Last year, Obama correctly picked North Carolina to win the national championship. His bracket ranked 903, 125th overall, just above the 80th percentile in ESPN's online contest.

Obama predicted in January that Kentucky would reach the national championship game when he called coach John Calipari to congratulate the program on raising more than $1 million as part of the "Hoops for Haiti" telethon. He also warned the Wildcats not to take success for granted.

Kentucky had just reached No. 1 and, after the phone call, promptly lost to South Carolina.

"They lost to the Gamecocks and I think that was a good lesson for them," Obama told ESPN's Andy Katz. "And I think Calipari will have them ready."

The Wildcats are one of the youngest teams in the NCAA tournament, though, and Obama said he likes the Jayhawks' experience — including senior guard Sherron Collins.

"Balanced team, they've got Collins in the backcourt. I always like teams in the tournament who've got experience," Obama said. "Terrific guards."

If things play out like Obama anticipates, the Jayhawks would have to beat Kansas State for the fourth time this season to reach the national championship game.

When asked if Obama had seen Wildcats coach Frank Martin and his menacing sideline glare, the president replied: "I have. He's a scary dude. I could send him up to Congress to get them to vote for health care.

"I'll tell you what, Kansas State impresses me," Obama added. "They always play tough. And I think they're going to be motivated. They get to the Final Four."

Obama predicted several first-round upsets: No. 13 seed Siena over Purdue, 12th-seeded Cornell to beat Temple, and Murray State to upset fourth-seeded Vanderbilt.

The fourth-seeded Boilermakers are a trendy upset victim after losing star guard Robbie Hummel to a torn ACL during a game Feb. 24 against Minnesota. Hummel ranked second on the team with 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.

Other teams that Obama likes include No. 1 seeds Syracuse and Duke, both of which he has losing in the round of eight, seconded-seeded West Virginia and No. 3 seed Georgetown.

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