No matter what the NCAA says about its "First Four," held on Tuesday and Wednesday, those games aren't the first round of the men's basketball tournament. They're play-in games to qualify for the field of 64. The real action gets under way Thursday and Friday, when 60 teams play their first game.
Like millions of other Americans, President Obama has filled out his bracket for the men's tournament. (His picks for the women's tournament will be revealed on Friday.) Seeing how Obama is the First Fan and Baller-in-Chief, ESPN unveiled his picks during a live broadcast for the third consecutive year.
The NCAA tournament has spawned a new science — "bracketology" — in which experts and non-experts alike predict which 68 teams will be included in the field. But once the teams are announced on Selection Sunday, the focus turns to predicting winners in any number of office pools and online contests. The word "bracket" likely is uttered in March more times than the other 11 months combined.
Obama is definitely conservative when it comes to predicting winners. He correctly picked the University of North Carolina in 2009, when the Tar Heels were a No. 1 seed. He incorrectly picked Kansas University in 2010 and 2011, with the Jayhawks being a No. 1 seed both seasons. But he's going with North Carolina again this year, with the Tar Heels — again — a No. 1 seed.
"I am just a sucker for the Tar Heels … and since they won it for me the last time I picked them, hopefully I will be able to get a little redemption for the last two years," Obama said on the ESPN broadcast.
Obama treated visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron to a taste of March Madness on Tuesday, when the pair took in the game between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State. They watched Mississippi Valley, an HBCU, suffer a heartbreaking loss, blowing a 16-point lead over the last five minutes.
They left before the second game at the University of Dayton (Ohio), which featured an even more impressive comeback. Brigham Young University rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat Iona. The early departure by Obama and Cameron drew some criticism. Predictably, so did Obama's annual participation in ESPN's "Barack-etology," which drew complaints that Obama was putting basketball over the budget and other pressing issues.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Mitt Rommey showed, once again, a failure to connect with common folks. He told reporters Tuesday that he's not filling out a bracket this year because he's "not plugged-in well enough to do that."
He doesn't need to be "plugged in." He just needs a pen or a pencil. Anyone can do it and millions do — including the commander-in-chief.