McConnell balances Kentucky pride with practicality in March Madness picks

Bracketology 101: How to win your office pool
Bracketology 101: How to win your office pool

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Story highlights

  • McConnell filled out his March Madness bracket
  • Kentucky has two very strong college basketball programs

(CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filled out his March Madness bracket with one day to go before the Round of 64 kicks off. The senator explained his picks Wednesday to ESPN's Andy Katz and ABC's Rick Klein in his Washington office.

President Barack Obama traditionally filled out a bracket for ESPN during his presidency, now, post-presidency. On Wednesday, Obama released his men and women's brackets on the Obama Foundation website. He chose the University of North Carolina men's team and the University of Connecticut women's team to take home the championships. The biggest upset Obama predicts in this year's men's tournament is a Bucknell (14) defeat of West Virginia (4) in the Round of 64.
Since President Donald Trump isn't filling out a bracket this year, McConnell is the highest ranking Republican to get in on the spirit of college basketball's biggest tournament, which plays out over the course of 67 games and several weeks in March and April.
    Kentucky is one place that understands that 🏀 is life, with college basketball powerhouses Louisville and Kentucky calling the state home. McConnell -- an alum of both schools who proudly displays basketballs from both in his office -- even told Katz and Klein that he looks forward to college basketball more than the Kentucky Derby.
    McConnell may stick to party lines, but in several cases, he threw seeding to the wind.
    In the Round of 64, McConnell took risks by choosing Nevada (12) over Iowa State (5), East Tennessee State (13) over Florida (4) and Xavier (11) over Maryland (6) -- although there has been some discussion about whether or not Maryland was given too high a seed anyway.
    While his conservative instincts start to take over in the Round of 32, McConnell clearly has a couple of favorites. Recognizing this year's darling SMU (6) over Baylor (3), McConnell also continued his support for Xavier (11), choosing that team to knock out FSU (3).
    Interestingly, he just seemed to skip over the winner of his projected Creighton/Oregon match up, but that doesn't matter because he chose Louisville (2) to beat either of those teams in the next round anyway.
    McConnell's Sweet Sixteen sticks to seeding, even taking out Xavier. Interestingly, McConnell knocks out all four 1 seeds in the Elite Eight, leaving him a Final Four populated only by 2 seeds, including Louisville and Kentucky, who won their last championships in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
    Because of the way seeding works, McConnell had to choose between the two in their Final Four match-up, with Louisville coming out on top. McConnell might be biased toward his undergraduate alma mater, however, since it is home to his namesake McConnell Center, which focuses on leadership education.
    In the end, McConnell predicts that Louisville will beat Duke in the championship.
    "Honestly, this a pick of the heart, not of the head. I'm not so sure U of L can beat Duke," McConnell said, making a choice that shows home-state pride from one of the country's leading conservatives.