Tournament Challenge: President Obama's final Barack-etology

Below are notes on upsets and other notable picks from President Obama’s 2016 Tournament Challenge bracket, along with analysis of how his picks compare to the overall field.

Notable round-of-64 picks


  • 9-seed UConn over 8-seed Colorado (most popular upset among field, with 72.1 percent of brackets picking the Huskies)

  • 13-seed Hawaii over 4-seed Cal (most popular upset pick among seeds No. 12 or worse, with 19.3 percent of brackets taking the Rainbow Warriors); note that President Obama played high school basketball in Hawaii


  • 9-seed Cincinnati over 8-seed Saint Joseph’s (53.9 percent of brackets also have this upset)

  • 10-seed VCU over 7-seed Oregon State (57.8 percent of brackets tab this upset); also of note: President Obama’s brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, coached the Beavers from 2008-14)


  • 10-seed Pitt over 7-seed Wisconsin (the president went out on a limb with this one, as only 35.4 percent of brackets tabbed the Panthers to pull the upset)


  • 9-seed Butler over 8-seed Texas Tech (the Bulldogs, picked in 64 percent of brackets, are another popular upset choice)

  • 10-seed Syracuse over 7-seed Dayton (48.4 percent of brackets have the Orange advancing to the round of 32)

Round of 32

In the past, President Obama has for the most part avoided picking upsets after the first round; the most upsets he’s picked from the round of 32 onward in a bracket is five (in 2009 and 2014). This year he picked five.

South/West/East: Chalk


  • 5-seed Purdue over 4-seed Iowa State (49.9 percent of brackets picked the Boilermakers in a modest upset)

Sweet 16

South/Midwest: Chalk


  • 4-seed Duke over 1-seed Oregon (only 32.4 percent of brackets have the Blue Devils going to the Elite Eight)

  • 3-seed Texas A&M over 2-seed Oklahoma (one of the president’s bolder upset picks, as only 23 percent of brackets have the Aggies advancing to the Elite Eight)


  • 3-seed West Virginia over 2-seed Xavier (40.4 percent of brackets are taking the Mountaineers)

Elite Eight

  • South: Kansas over Villanova (66.6 percent have KU going to the Final Four)

  • West: Texas A&M over Duke (another notable pick: just 12.4 percent have A&M making the Final Four)

  • East: North Carolina over West Virginia (UNC is a popular pick to make the Final Four at 48.8 percent)

  • Midwest: Michigan State over Virginia (Sparty gets to the Final Four in 61.9 percent of brackets)

Final Four

  • North Carolina over Michigan State (31.4 percent picked UNC and MSU to meet in the Final Four; 14.2 percent picked UNC to beat MSU in the Final Four; 26.2 percent picked UNC to make the final)

  • Kansas over Texas A&M (just 8.3 percent picked KU and A&M to meet in the Final Four; 6.8 percent picked KU to beat A&M in the Final Four; nearly half the field, 49.2 percent, has the Jayhawks in the final)

Note: This is seventh time in eight years the president has picked a finals matchup involving two 1-seeds (2014 was the exception when he took 4-seed Louisville vs. 4-seed Michigan State)

Championship: Kansas over North Carolina

  • The president went chalk with his title pick; top-seeded KU is the most-picked winner at this point at 24.6 percent, with Michigan State second at 22.4 percent.

  • 13.9 percent picked KU to meet UNC in the final; 6.9 percent have KU beating UNC in the final

  • This is the third time in eight years he has picked Kansas to win it all

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