President's Sweet 16 still intact

Updated: March 20, 2009, 8:33 AM ET
Associated Press

President Barack Obama warned North Carolina not to let him down. He should have been worried about his home-state team.

Illinois, the fifth seed in the South Regional, lost to Western Kentucky 76-72 on Thursday night.

It is the 19th time in the past 21 years that a 12 seed has beaten a five in the tournament.

The prognosticator-in-chief finished with 11 of the 16 games right and an intact Sweet 16. Even so, he ranked in the bottom quarter after the first day.

That's not to say there weren't any other tense moments for the First Bracket. One of his Final Four picks was in danger of elimination in one of the first games Thursday.

Had Memphis lost to Cal State-Northridge, it would have put a major dent in the president's chances of winning ESPN's online contest, where his bracket was posted.

But most important for his chances of success -- none of the teams he misfired on was penciled in any further than the second round.

Obama also got a scare from No. 14 American earlier in the night. The Eagles -- who are just up the road from the White House -- led three-seed Villanova before falling 80-67.

Michigan, Texas A&M and LSU defied the president's expectations by winning first-round games. Of those, only Michigan was close to being an upset, as the No. 10 Wolverines knocked off seventh-seeded Clemson 62-59.

Obama called two upsets outside of games between No. 8 and No. 9 seeds -- Maryland and VCU. The No. 10 Terrapins -- another local choice -- beat seventh-seeded California 84-71. But Virginia Commonwealth failed to knock off No. 6 seed UCLA. The Bruins, aiming for their fourth straight Final Four, hung on for a 65-64 win.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press