Months of emotions come to a head for millions of Americans this week. Anger, anxiety, depression — all are assuaged Friday when college basketball finally returns!
Oh, also, Election Day marks the conclusion of one of the more heated and negative presidential campaigns in modern history.
College basketball season tipping off the same week as the presidential election is a relatively new phenomenon. Thanksgiving week long marked the start of the season for most programs, but the date has moved up to Veterans Day weekend in recent years. Perhaps that’s a byproduct of the most college basketball-friendly administration in American history?
President Barack Obama may not have passed any legislation mandating an earlier start to the college hoops season. Like the most of the other items to come, Obama’s affinity for the game and an earlier start to the campaign are pure coincidence.
Tuesday’s result at the ballot box is unlikely to have any direct impact on the sport, although neither Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton nor Republican nominee Donald Trump has shown the same enthusiasm for the game as Obama.
From landing on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson to watch North Carolina-Michigan State in 2011 to appearing courtside for Georgetown games, Obama has embraced college basketball like no Leader of the Free World before him.
Obama’s eight years provide just some of the 45 — in honor of the next President’s place in the office’s lineage — shared facts between the White House and the college hardwood.
The President Doesn’t Rig The Tournament
Many die-hard fans can relate to the most powerful man in the world — no matter how much we may know, we’re guaranteed to lose our bracket challenge.
1. President Obama welcomed ESPN’s Andy Katz into the White House every year of his presidency to unveil his NCAA Tournament bracket.
This presidential election has had plenty of chatter about rigged results, and that’s pertinent. If NCAA Tournament results and Obama’s brackets are any indication, that couldn’t be any further from reality.
After taking North Carolina to the title in 2009, 2. Obama went 0-for for the duration of his time in the Oval Office. The past three seasons, however, his pick to win it all lost to the eventual champion. He took 3. Kansas in 2016 (lost to Villanova in the Elite Eight); 4. Kentucky in 2015 (lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four); and 5. Michigan State in 2014 (lost to Connecticut in the Elite Eight).
6. Twice, President Obama took No. 1 seeds that lost in the Round of 32: Kansas in 2010 and Indiana in 2013. 7. Both were teams from states he failed to carry in the prior election, and lost to programs from states he won: 8. Iowa (Northern Iowa) and Pennsylvania (Temple).
The lesson here is to stick with your base.
It’s Good to Have The President In Your Corner (But Not Necessarily Your State)
9. If the next president supports your favorite basketball team, good news: The past three Commanders-in-Chief have seen their favorite college hoops program reach at least one Final Four during their presidencies. 10. Two cheered on national title runs.
11. A younger President Bill Clinton donning an Arkansas Hog Head is a popular image of politics-meet-sport, and Clinton’s support of the home-state Razorbacks was no mere photo-op. He cheered on Corliss Williamson, Scottie Thurman and the rest of the 1994 Arkansas title team live from the Final Four. 12. In 2014, Clinton appeared alongside Richardson and former Razorback head coach Eddie Sutton to “Call The Hogs” at a 20-year title reunion.
13. President Obama played pick-up ball with Roy Williams’ North Carolina team while on the campaign trail in 2008, preceding the Heels’ national championship run (more on that in a moment).
14. While the Tar Heels came a Kris Jenkins 3-pointer away from giving Obama bookending championships during his term, the 44th President can tangentially stake a claim to three titles under his administration. Reggie Love, a backup power forward on Duke’s 2001 title team, served as Obama’s personal aide until 2011 — though the whole cheering-for-rivals thing would have to be considered a transparently political move.
15. While President George W. Bush’s White House mojo extended more to the football program, the Texas Longhorns made their only Final Four run in program history during Bush’s first term.
Former Texas (and current Tennessee) head coach Rick Barnes told The New York Times in 2003: “Those guys were more excited about going to the White House, than they are about going to the Final Four.”
Bush never got to have Barnes’ team to the White House for a title celebration, but he’s not alone. Though predecessor Clinton saw his Razorbacks win a title during his presidency, no president’s home state had won an NCAA championship for more than 20 years prior to 1994.
16. The last before Clinton was Californian Richard Nixon, who was in office during the penultimate of John Wooden’s 10 titles won at UCLA in 1973. 17. Nixon would have been in the White House for Wooden’s last title with the Bruins, but he resigned three months before the start of the 1974-’75 season.
Which Programs Go With Which Presidents?
Despite missing the last Wooden-coached championship at UCLA, 18. Nixon was in office for five Bruin titles — the most won by any program during any one presidency.
He beat out President Lyndon B. Johnson, 19. who was in the White House for four UCLA championships.
20. Next is President Harry Truman, presiding over three Kentucky championships between 1948 and 1951. 21. Nine programs won two titles during the time in office of six different presidents.
Election Day Means More in North Carolina
22. Each of North Carolina’s past three national championships were won in seasons immediately following presidential elections: 1993, 2005 and 2009. 23. A fourth, and the program’s first national title, was won in 1957 after Dwight Eisenhower won his re-election over Adlai Stevenson the previous November.
24. Were that not reason enough for the Tar Heels to look forward to the coming campaign, Williams’ squad should also keep a close eye on Tuesday’s result. Each of the last two times a first-term Democratic candidate won the presidency, North Carolina won the NCAA championship.
In other words, if Hillary Clinton wins, might as well put the champagne on ice now, Tar Heel fans.
Too Close to Call
For the sake of the American populace’s collective sanity, everyone on both sides of the aisle can probably agree it’s best to avoid a recount in this particular election.
Save the extra time for the Final Four.
25. In the history of the NCAA Championship Game, seven title games have gone to overtime. Four came in election seasons. 26. North Carolina’s aforementioned 1957 title run concluded with a triple-overtime defeat of Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas Jayhawks. 27. Four years later, Cincinnati won its second consecutive title with an overtime defeat of in-state rival Ohio State.
28. In 1989, Michigan outlasted Seton Hall for the program’s first, and still only, basketball championship. 29. Arizona needed an extra frame to down Kentucky in 1997, and thus 30. complete the only run ever in which one team felled three No. 1 seeds.
Not Quite Truman-Dewey, But Upsets Reign in Election Years
31. Eight No. 15 seeds have upset No. 2 seeds since the NCAA Tournament expanded to a 64(-plus)-team format in 1985.
32. Four of those upsets were scored in seasons which began in election years: 33. Santa Clara’s Steve Nash-led defeat of Arizona in the 1992-1993 season; 34. Coppin State’s defeat of South Carolina in 1996-1997; 35. Hampton upending Iowa State in 2000-2001; 36. and Florida Gulf Coast beginning its historic Sweet 16 run in 2012-2013 with a win over Georgetown.
A President was inaugurated in January. Two months later, a 15 seed celebrated.
POTUS and POTY
Between 1980-’81 and 2004-’05, 37. an ACC representative won at least one of the major National Player of the Year awards five times: 38. Virginia’s Ralph Sampson in ’80-’81; 39. Duke’s Danny Ferry in ’88-’89; 40. Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan in ’96-’97; 41 and 42. Shane Battier and J.J. Redick of Duke in ’00-’01 and ’04-’05.
For as much prosperity as the ACC has enjoyed during the Obama presidency — with Duke’s two national titles and Carolina’s one, and Louisville bringing one from the Big East shortly before joining the league — 43. Big 12 (Blake Griffin) and Big Ten (Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo) players swept the Player of the Year honors in both of Obama’s election seasons.
2016-’17 opens with an ACC representative as the front-runner to win college basketball’s individual hardware. Duke guard Grayson Allen could become the fourth Blue Devil of the last 28 years to win at least one Player of the Year trophy in an election-year season.
The Outlook for D.C.
The candidates want to call Washington, D.C., home. The teams that already reside in the nation’s capital want to get to the Phoenix area in the spring.
44. Since 1980, only Georgetown (1982, 1984, 1985, 2007) and George Mason (2006) have made the trip from D.C. to the Final Four. The only Division I programs named for presidents — James Madison and George Washington — face unlikely odds for title contention.
That leaves ACC contender Virginia, 45. founded by Thomas Jefferson, as the most realistic presidential university option for the Final Four.
Jefferson’s alma mater William & Mary plays in the same conference from which George Mason made its Final Four run, the Colonial Athletic Association. Getting the Tribe into the Field of 68 might be too much to ask, even with an executive order.