Regardless of how calm and authoritative President Obama sounds when he makes his NCAA tournament picks every year on ESPN, brackets are judged not by style points during the filling-out process, but by history.
Now that Obama has filled out his bracket once again, with basketball writer Andy Katz looking on as usual, let's examine his presidential brackets in succession, beginning with 2009, when he accurately picked North Carolina as the tournament winner.
The brackets below have been personally corrected, by me, in Photoshop, after a review of the 2009 and 2010 tournament results.
Obama picked the winner, UNC, but missed 12 of 32 gamed in the first round and only got one Final Four team correct. It was a tough year for first-round predictions, and Obama's bracket was dragged down by missing big upsets that busted brackets nationwide (Cleveland State, Western Kentucky) and picking some underdogs that didn't pan out (Temple, VCU).
Overall, not a bad year for the president with his accurate UNC pick, but this bracket would not have won the office pool
Round 1: 20/32 Round 2: 14/16 Round 3: 5/8 Round 4: 1/4 Round 5: 1/2 Round 6: 1/1
On the whole, a more balanced performance by the president, but as evidenced by all the red markings above, not a great one. After getting burned by Villanova's victory over Duke in 2009, Obama picked Duke to lose in the Elite Eight to Villanova. They won, adding another chapter to the fraught history of Obama, his NCAA picks, and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Once again, the president only picked one correct Final Four team. And once again, Obama's bracket would have sunk in office-pool standings.
Round 1: 25/32 Round 2: 9/16 Round 3: 4/8 Round 4: 0/4 Round 5: 0/2 Round 6: 0/1
"I have never picked all number-one seeds," Obama told Andy Katz. "As I said, if this bracket were a little different, I might have picked it a little differently." Perhaps he's been unusually busy, with less time to follow men's college basketball than in recent years.
Obama has picked five upsets (not counting 8 seeds beating 9 seeds) in the first round, but none of them are too surprising.
As we all know, better-seeded teams often look like the sure thing, but March Madness proves every year that there are always upsets, and that the art of the bracket involves a heavy dose of guessing where they will occur.
Then again, it's not about the style: It's about getting the picks right. Has Obama morphed into a risk-averse backer of favorites, or does he simply have a beat on this year's field?
If the past two tournaments were any indication, Obama's bracket will struggle again in 2011, despite his extensive hoops knowledge. But only March will tell.