Shanoff's W.U.C.: Obama's Bracket Picks

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↵Today's Calls: Barack Obama vs. the Bracket, Tyler Hansbrough vs. Ty Lawson, Morehead State vs. Louisville, LeBron vs. Dwight Howard, Martin Brodeur vs. History, A-Rod vs. Details, Julius Peppers vs. Jay Cutler, Scott Skiles vs. Twitter and More. ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: You know the President is a huge hoops fan when his NCAA Tournament picks are being broadcast as an event in and of themselves. ↵

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↵The official "reveal" might not be until noon, but we already know who Barack Obama is picking to the Final Four: Louisville, Pitt, UNC and Memphis. Three 1-seeds and a near-1? That is playing it fairly safe. ↵

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↵His complete bracket won't be announced until noon, but — if you want a sneak peek — we already know his COMPLETE brackets from the South and East. ↵

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↵Barack Obama's South Region: ↵

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↵South 1st Round Picks: Pitt, Tennessee, Florida State, Xavier, VCU, Villanova, Texas, Duke ↵

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↵South 2nd Round Picks: Pitt, FSU, Nova, Duke ↵

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↵South Regional Final: Pitt over Duke ↵

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↵Analysis: The President plays it conservatively, picking only one real upset in the opening round (VCU over UCLA — which is THE popular upset pick in the South), then a minor upset with (5) FSU over (4) Xavier in the 2nd round. That's risky: FSU could lose in the classic 12-5 upset to Wisconsin. ↵

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↵Barack Obama's East Region: ↵

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↵East 1st Round Picks: UNC, Butler, Illinois, Gonzaga, Temple, Syracuse, Clemson, Oklahoma ↵

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↵East 2nd Round Picks: UNC, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Oklahoma ↵

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↵East Regional Final: UNC over Syracuse. ↵

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↵Analysis: I didn't expect him to pick against his home-state Illini (even though they are in the 12-5 upset slot), and you have to wonder if picking against Arizona State is a tweak against his old election rival, John McCain. Love Cuse over OU in the regional semi — the President must have been as enamored with Cuse after the 6-OT game as the rest of us. ↵

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↵His picks are like his governing style: Pragmatic. I would have hoped for a little more audacity, but Obama didn't win the election by going to extremes. I presume he will win the White House office pool with the same cool-headed strategy. ↵

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↵Play-In Game: Morehead State wins, and — after they lose to Louisville — they will exit the tournament with one more win than 32 other teams. Not a bad consolation prize. Now, what does it say that I'm already out of my office pool after last night's result? (Kidding: It's my one moment to be right!) ↵

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↵Who is the NCAA Tournament's most important player? Tyler Hansbrough has the most on the line — it is his legacy that rests on UNC winning a national title. If they don't, the only title he will earn is "Best Player Never to Win a Title," the first to win that title since Ralph Sampson. ↵

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↵So that means the most important player is the one who is most critical to Hansbrough winning that title: Tar Heels PG Ty Lawson. If Lawson is healthy (or, at least, as healthy as he was in that dominant win over Duke), UNC should be the favorite. If he is not, UNC might not even make it to the Final Four (in the same way that, without him, they didn't even make the ACC finals). And because Lawson is iffy, so are the Heels' chances. ↵

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↵NHL Milestones: Martin Brodeur wins No. 552, making him the winningest goalie in NHL history. You have to wonder if it's an unbreakable mark? ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Cavs get the calls. When the Magic beat the Cavs in late January for their "we've arrived" win of the season, LeBron James spent most of the game complaining about the refs' no-calls. Back in Cleveland, the refs returned the favor. ↵

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↵Sure, LeBron hit a huge, no-denying-it clutch 3 with under a minute to play and the Cavs down 1. But when the Magic set up offensively to try to take back the lead and superstar Dwight Howard was hit with a journeyman's 3-second call, the message was clear: LeBron gets his payback. ↵

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↵The Magic might be even better positioned than the Celtics to beat the Cavs in the playoffs — but if the refs are so obviously going to be protecting LeBron and Co. (particularly at home, where the Cavs will have the advantage throughout the playoffs), what's the point? ↵

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↵Shot of the Night: Andre Iguodala's buzzer-beater to lift the Sixers over the Lakers. ↵

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↵Jay Cutler Watch: It's not pretty. Josh McDaniels is trying to do his best impression of Bill Belichick (and ex-Pat Jabar Gaffney was apparently deputized to send that message). Cutler doesn't appear to care much for it. The question remains: Will he go to Detroit? Tampa? D.C.? Buffalo? Elsewhere? ↵

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↵Julius Peppers would like to be a Pat: I hate the Patriots, but I have to say — who wouldn't want to be a Pat? They will be a popular pick to win the Super Bowl next year — with or without Peppers — and the defensive star would get to play for the most innovative mind in the NFL. ↵

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↵Speaking of Obama, remember his rooting interest in the Steelers for the Super Bowl? That was a direct result of the election-season support given to him by Dan Rooney, which became critical in Western Pennsylvania, where some "Steelers fans" were still skeptical of Obama. The President returned the favor by nominating Rooney to be Ambassador to Ireland. ↵

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↵Pop Culture: A-Rod Loves Him Some A-Rod. What idiot publicist thought it would be a good idea for A-Rod to do a photo shoot in Details? And what idiot publicist let A-Rod be photographed making sweet love to... himself? These are the most awkward pictures of the year in sports. ↵

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↵WBC: David Walk-Off! Team USA is into the semis, thanks to David Wright's heroics. Up until now, all you have really heard about are the multiple injuries, the "mercy rule" humiliation and — mostly — how other teams seem to care more. Fun to finally have some good news to write about this team. ↵

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↵Media: Scott Skiles hates Twitter. Here's what I don't get: Charlie Villanueva's "tweet" was all ABOUT concentration. Here is what he tapped out: ↵

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↵"In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We're playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up." ↵

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↵"I gotta step up": And he did. And the Bucks actually won the game. Twitter (1-0) has a better career winning percentage than Skiles. ↵

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↵If "CV31" had bumbled his way through the 2nd half and Milwaukee had lost the game, Skiles would have reason to be annoyed. Instead, maybe Skiles should have the entire team using Twitter at halftime, all the time. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Happy birthday to my lovely wife, who shows (nearly) endless patience when my early-mornings are booked solid to write this every day. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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