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March Madness 2013

It’s time again for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship and this year top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs got the No. 1 seed.

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(CNN) – President Barack Obama spent Wednesday morning touring Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, but back home his NCAA bracket was also making big news.

The president chose Louisville, Indiana, Ohio State and Florida to reach this year’s final four. That includes two number one seeds – Louisville in the Midwest region and Indiana in the East.

It’s the second year he’s picked Ohio State to reach the final four. The Buckeyes are seeded number two in the West region. The Florida Gators – Obama’s pick to win the South region – are seeded three behind Kansas and Georgetown.
Final 4Like in year’s past, Obama revealed his picks in an interview with ESPN. He’s also filled out a ballot for this year’s women’s tournament. His picks? Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and California.

Last year Obama chose North Carolina to win the national championship, and took British Prime Minister David Cameron to a first round game in Ohio.

The Tar Heels didn’t make it past the Elite Eight.

Filling out his bracket didn’t come without some political sniping from Republicans, who have criticized the White House for missing the February deadline to release a budget. On Tuesday, the House GOP Conference released a web video highlighting the delay.

“Clutch with his brackets. Late with his budgets,” the video said.

The White House has said they would likely release the budget the week of April 8. They explain the delay was caused by arguing over tax rates and spending cuts with Congress.

Stanford v Texas

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March Madness A to Z

Editor’s note: Steve Politi is a sports columnist for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. Follow him on Twitter @StevePoliti. Watch coverage of the ‘first four’ tournament games starting Tuesday on truTV.

(CNN) — Do you know the mascot for South Dakota State? Can you come up with the all-time record for No. 16 seeds? How about the starting backcourt for the Michigan Wolverines?

No? Well, to prepare you for Selection Sunday and the three weeks of March Madness, here is an A to Z primer on the NCAA Tournament that will cap a wildly unpredictable season in college basketball.


A is for Anyone, which is pretty much who can claim the NCAA title. That doesn’t mean you should pick Liberty — which brings a 15-20 record into the tournament — in your office pool. But unlike one year ago, when Kentucky was heavily favored from the start of the season, there are a dozen teams that can legitimately say they have a chance to clip the nets in Atlanta in three weeks.

B is for Big East, which is splitting into three directions next year. The seven Catholic members are retaining the name and plan to add a few other top basketball schools. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are joining the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. And the remaining schools are combining with several newcomers to form a yet-to-be-named conference. Will the league that gave us Patrick Ewing and Villanova’s upset and the three Connecticut championships go out with one last hoorah? As usual, it will have a lot of chances, with as many as eight members in the field of 68.

C is for Creighton, and if you’re looking for a reason to pick the Bluejays in your office pool, look no further than Doug McDermott. The junior forward is the second leading scorer in the nation with 23.1 points a game.

For the rest of the list, go to CNN’s story here.

basketballTACOMA — If you weren’t at the Tacoma Dome this weekend for the 3A and 4A State Basketball Championships – or weren’t able to catch any the title games on T.V.– you likely missed out on the most exciting local basketball of the month. Unless you’re a Gonzaga fan, of course.

Saturday nights title game marathon, which included an overtime thriller between Lakeside and Rainier Beach High School, was one for the ages – yet another reminder of how vital the sport of basketball is to our local community.

I admit I was the guy on the couch last night after midnight, watching Curtis hold off previously-undefeated Jackson in the 4A championship to win their first state title since 1971.

It was unexpected – and truly enjoyable – and to the parents in University Place, well worth letting your freshmen kids stay out past curfew.

In the past, I’ve given the WIAA tough time for poor decisions – but I’m behind their move that condensed the state field to eight teams and combined the 3A and 4A championships into the same weekend under the same roof. It’s given a larger emphasis to the best-of-the-best in our area – and the games this weekend proved it.

The old saying goes, leave your audience wanting more. Many fans did, including me.

It’s also appropriate that in the last four months, three coaching legends have continued their legacy with another state title.

In December, it was Butch Goncharoff and Bellevue football. Last month, Brent Barnes and Lake Stevens wrestling. Last night?  Mike Bethea and rainier beach basketball. All are legitimate powerhouses.

All three schools, synonymous with their dominance in a particular sport.

With the future NBA status still in question, and the Huskies and Cougs continuing to disappoint, I thank all the local high school teams for trying to help fill that void, as the month of March begins. It was fun to see regional and local rivalries on display and community pride taking center stage.

The NCAA tournament won’t return to Seattle for another two years, when Key  Arena will host two rounds starting in 2015. So for now, local March Madness is reduced to the Tacoma Dome one weekend, and the Pac-12 women’s tournament the next.

TheT-Dome lived up to its billing.

To steal a familiar catchphrase when it comes to women’s hoops:

Hey Pac-12, you’ve got next. Good luck.

GonzagaSPOKANE — The Gonzaga men’s basketball team is expected to be ranked number two in the country when the polls come out Monday.

But we often overlook the Zags in Seattle – and revisit them come NCAA Tournament time, right around their annual disappointing loss in the big dance.

They used to be the tournament’s Cinderella. But lately, they’re the underachievers.

Forget national respect, in all honesty, I’m not sure Gonzaga has much regional respect, because of their weak conference – and their recent failures come tournament time.

Which is why this year is most critical. Gonzaga will likely be a number one seed in March Madness.

But it’s my opinion that Mark Few’s team will continue to be an afterthought – not to mention a huge disappointment – without a trip to the Final Four.

Don’t get me wrong. The Zags accomplishments are incredible. This will be their 15th NCAA Tournament. Their 27 wins this season are the most regular-season victories in school history. They’re just two wins away from just their fourth undefeated conference season.

But let’s be honest – have they ever been seen as a national powerhouse? Not really. And they won’t until they play to their national ranking in front of the entire country when it matters the most.

This simply won’t cut it. First or second round losses five of the last six years. Just two sweet sixteen berths since 2001. They’re the postseason mainstays that continually disappoint.

I think Mark Few deserves all the credit in the world for what he’s built in Spokane. But he won’t be given his due until he can lead a team all the way.

It’s a challenge to everyone on this year’s team. You’ve likely earned that top seed. But until you do anything in March, you haven’t earned anything else.