Selects All Top Seeds in Final Four with ESPN’s Doris Burke
In his second straight year filling out an NCAA women’s basketball championship bracket for ESPN, President Barack Obama picked Connecticut to win the title, as he provided ESPN analyst Doris Burke with an exclusive interview from the White House library Tuesday, March 15. President Obama is predicting Connecticut to defeat Baylor – a rematch of a 2010 national semifinal game. The segment debuted on SportsCenter today, Friday, March 18, at 9 a.m. ET and it will air on every edition of SportsCenter on ESPN and ESPNEWS on Friday, as well as the re-air shows on Saturday morning.
The interview will also be available on ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile following the original airing on SportsCenter. The president’s entire women’s bracket and the behind-the-scenes video of the White House and President Obama making his picks will be posted on ESPN.com.
ESPN.com’s Women’s Tournament Challenge game returns for its 14th seasons and is free for fans to submit up to 10 entries. Participants submit a completed bracket of tournament game outcomes and points are awarded for each correct pick, with point values increasing as the tournament progress. The Women’s Tournament Challenge will accept registration until just prior to tipoff of the first game on Saturday, March 19.
Burke, who also interviewed President Obama last season when he provided his women’s bracket selections to ESPN, discussed her White House experience:
What’s the strangest or most surprising thing about being in the White House?
Burke: “It is hard not to be struck by the history that surrounds the White House. We did the bracket selection inside the library, where there are books from many generations of Presidents. It is impossible not to think of all the influential people that have walked through halls of the White House, made monumental decisions and have dealt with the pressure of being in such a leadership role.”
How is it interacting with the President?
Burke: “When President Obama entered the room, it was obvious he was more serious than a season ago with so many world issues on his mind. He is very passionate about the game and was engaged while filling out the bracket.”
How confident did President Obama appear with his Final Four picks?
Burke: “President Obama was very confident as he selected all four number one seeds – Baylor, Connecticut, Stanford and Tennessee. The way the season played out – it made obvious sense that the President leaned that way. He again picked UConn to repeat – based off his impressions of Maya Moore as person and basketball player, and her leadership abilities to guide the Huskies.”
Notable Quotes from Burke’s Interview with President Obama:
President Obama began by asking the nation to take time and help the relief effort in Japan:
President Obama: “Well, obviously the world is going through enormous changes and we just witnessed one of the worst tragedies of our lifetime, what’s happening in Japan right now, with the earthquake, a tsunami, and now a nuclear accident. So we’re focused on that.
“One of the things I wanted to do on the show was, as people are filling out their brackets — this is obviously a national pastime; we all have a great time, it’s a great diversion. But I know a lot of people are thinking how they can help the Japanese people during this time of need. If you go to usaid.gov — usaid.gov — that will list all the nonprofits, the charities that are helping out there. It would be wonderful for people to maybe offer a little help to the Japanese people at this time — as they’re filling out their brackets. It’s not going to take a lot of time. That’s usaid.gov. It could be really helpful.”
On picking the team to advance from the Philadelphia Region:
President Obama: “I have to go with Connecticut. Not only do they have just an unbelievable tradition of winning, they’ve got the best player in the country.”
On Maya Moore:
President Obama: “For my birthday I had a little all-star game here, and we had Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and just a whole slew of all-stars.
“And Maya, because I’d gotten to know her when she came here, was on the court. She lit the guys up, and was playing hard and they were playing hard. She picked Dwyane Wade — sorry, Dwyane, but I’ve got to report on this — I mean, she picked him clean on one play. So she can hang with the best players in the world and she’s a winner.”
On Tennessee against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight:
President Obama: “Got to go with Tennessee – Pat Summitt is not going to let them lose. And one of the interesting things is – two storied programs but they don’t play against each other very often. So having a Final Four with a Tennessee-Connecticut matchup, that will be fun. It will be fun to watch the coaches on the sidelines, not just the players on the court.”
On Spokane Region – UCLA versus Stanford:
President Obama: “I think by the time they get here, you’re right that UCLA doesn’t have enough offense. So I think Stanford does well – they’ve got a very fine team. They’ve beaten some terrific teams, including Connecticut, so I think they advance.”
On Brittany Griner and Baylor:
President Obama: “Obviously she’s a dominant force in the game. But they’ve also got a good team, a well-coached team, they play together. I think they’ll do very well.”
On the potential Connecticut-Tennessee semifinal matchup:
President Obama: “I’ve still got to go to Connecticut. I just think that when you’ve got the top player in the game in a close matchup and somebody who’s a veteran, who’s won the tournament before, they’re not going to get as nervous. They’re going to make the plays down the stretch.”
On Knoxville’s reaction:
President Obama: “I love Pat Summitt. I’m very impressed with her and – all those years that they were winning championships I was a huge fan.”
On the potential Stanford-Baylor semifinal matchup:
President Obama: “Outstanding game, but I’m going to go with Baylor. I think that they’re just going to be a little too tough, and that leaves a Connecticut-Baylor final.”
On the potential Baylor-Connecticut matchup in the championship game – Moore vs. Griner/ Auriemma vs. Mulkey:
President Obama: “I think that Maya is going to be hitting her jumper, she’s going to be making rebounds, she’s going to be making plays — I think Connecticut wins it again.”