Thursday, April 10, 2014
RALEIGH, N.C. — The president likes the University of Massachusetts ... for one round.
Filling out his annual bracket on ESPN, President Barack Obama picked the Minutemen to beat the winner of Iowa and Tennessee, but lose in the second round to No. 3 Duke.
With his sixth-seeded team a popular pick to get upset, UMass coach Derek Kellogg appreciated the support.
“That goes against everyone else. He’s got a good feel for the game,” Kellogg said, grinning. “It’s great. At least he knows UMass and our name is out there. That’s pretty cool I think.”
The players got a kick out of seeing “UMass” in the president’s handwriting on a bracket.
“Obama says we have a chance to win so maybe that gives us some extra luck. Just seeing that he picked us is a great feeling,” Raphiael Putney said.
Sampson Carter added, “It’s a great feeling. I commend him for that. If he’s listening to this, tell him I said ‘thank you.’ A lot of people have us losing. He’s got us winning so maybe he knows a little about us. He kept up with us during the year. It’s a pleasure. We’re going to have to prove him wrong in that second round game.”
The fact that Obama picked UMass to lose to Duke tempered the experience for Chaz Williams.
“I wish he would have had us beating Duke, but it’s great that he knows a little bit about us,” Williams said. “He’s got us beating a top team that everyone else has us losing to. It’s pretty impressive to know that we snuck up into the president’s mind a little bit. It’s just the start of it. The real fun part will be meeting him at the end of the year after we win the national championship. That’s obviously the goal. That would be a great experience.”
Obama picked a Final Four of Florida, Michigan State, Arizona and Louisville. He took Michigan State to beat Louisville in the final. According to ESPN, the president’s entry ranked 2,080,996th out of 8.15 million last year. In five years, he’s correctly picked the eventual champion once, North Carolina in 2009.
OTHER BRACKETS — While the Minutemen are a popular upset pick, there are some famous people, other than Obama, who are picking UMass. From CBS.com celebrity bracket, Model/actress Brooklyn Decker has the Minutemen beating Duke to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has UMass winning Friday as does Hootie and the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher, Tony Gonzalez and all four hosts of CBS Talk — Julie Chen, Aisha Tyler, Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osbourne.
The Atlantic 10 should send actor James Van Der Beek one of its “Who Wants Next” T-shirts. Not only does the Dawson’s Creek star have UMass winning its first round game (then losing to Mercer in the second round), he has Saint Joseph’s and Saint Louis playing each other in the championship game. No team with “Saint” as part of its name has ever won at title.
Former UMass coach Steve Lappas has the Minutemen being upset.
PREPPING FOR TWO FOES — Kellogg had assistant Marlon Williamson do a scouting report on Iowa and assistant Shyrone Chatman scout Tennessee. Kellogg and top assistant Adam Ginsburg watched film on both teams.
SPLIT LOYALTIES — While UMass isn’t in the same region as Memphis and George Washington, their pod in the East regional is also in Raleigh.
Kellogg, a former Memphis assistant, still has friends in that school’s athletic department. Kellogg is also friends with GW coach Mike Lonergan and roots for Atlantic 10 teams anyway.
“It is weird. Mike and I have become good friends and you want to see your league do well,” Kellogg said. “But Josh (Pastner, Memphis) is a guy who took my position down there and I’m actually close with a couple of kids on their team.”
SUCCESS AT SIX — The Minutemen have some notable role modes from their seed position. Six No. 6 seeds have reached the Final Four. Kansas (1988) and North Carolina State (1983) won championships, while Michigan (1992), Providence (1987), Houston (1982) and Purdue (1980) bowed out in the semifinal round.
OPEN PRACTICE — UMass will have an open practice at PNC Arena Thursday at 2:15 p.m. The Minutemen worked out at North Carolina State’s practice facility on Wednesday.
WATCH PARTIES — UMass announced watch parties for Friday’s game, locally and nationally. There are coordinated events in Amherst (Amherst Brewing Company), Boston (The Point), Cape Cod (Red Faced Jacks in West Yarmouth), New York City (Professor Thom’s), Denver (Highland Tap and Burger) and San Francisco (ThirstyBear Brewing Company).
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage