In some past years, being selected by a national figure has proved both a blessing and a curse. Now that the Prognosticator-in-Chief has picked Michigan State University to win it all in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, it brings up the question, “President Obama: is his pick of MSU a kiss or the kiss of death?”
The president’s history of picking winners might have some basketball fans jumping off the MSU bandwagon. In the past five year’s of March Madness predictions, he has been right just once: when he chose North Carolina to take it all in 2009. This year the President has picked two number four seeds, MSU and Louisville to meet in the final. To get there, he says the two number fours will beat top seeds Florida and Arizona.
The President’s reason for picking MSU? The coach, Tom Izzo, who Obama calls “a great tournament coach” and one who “knows how to motivate folks.”
Las Vegas odds makers agree with the President, somewhat. At the start of the tourney, they list the Florida Gators as the favorite at five to one. MSU is right behind, though, at 11-1/2 to two. At the bottom of the list are Harvard and North Dakota State. A one dollar wager would put $1,000 in the pocket of a bettor if either team wins. Some would compare the 1,000 to one odds with the chance of being struck by lightning three times.
MSU has shown winning form in past years, earning a berth in the Final Four six times (in
1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2010) under Izzo’s leadership. Izzo-led Spartans won all the marbles in 2000. They were runners up in 2009. Still fans wonder if President Obama’s pick of MSU is a kiss or kiss of death.
Fan Tweets lean both ways. One fan Tweeted “Well Obama thinks MSU will win it all this year. If that doesn’t prove that they won’t then I don’t know what will.” A Tweet sent from someone at MSU’s Breslin Center is more optimistic. Reacting to the team’s appearance on the cover of a regional edition of Sports Illustrated, he or she Tweeted, “Look who it is on the cover of @SInow! Congrats @thats_G_, we’ll be watching you & @MSU_Basketball take on Delaware!”
One reason to think President Obama’s pick is on the money is MSU’s performance in the Big Ten Tournament. Playing for the first time in many games with all starters healthy, the Spartans swept to the finals, where they stunned the Michigan Wolverines by a score of 69 to 55. The Wolverines were ranked eighth in the nation before the game; the Spartans were listed as just the 22nd best team. Michigan had beaten MSU twice during the regular season when some of the Spartan starters were on the bench with injuries.
Among the doubters of the President’s selection is a sportswriter from USA TODAY. Seth Gleeson predicts that the Wisconsin Badgers will go further in the Tournament than any other Big Ten team.
The real answer will come soon. Before March is over, people will know whether President Obama’s pick of MSU is a kiss or kiss of death.
Commentary by B. David Warner