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Obama lauds virtues of 'heartland' at NCAA game

If being president doesn't work out, Barack Obama might be interested in college-basketball analyst.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

'It's great to see a tournament game, but it's great to see Ohio,' Obama said during a halftime interview from the first game of the NCAA basketball tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

The president displayed his knowledge of basketball at an appearance at a first-round NCAA tournament game, but politics wasn't far behind.

"It's great to see a tournament game, but it's great to see Ohio," Obama said during a halftime interview from the first game of the NCAA basketball tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

With the United Kingdom's prime minister David Cameron next to him, Obama stressed that often foreign leaders "only see the coasts. But the heartland is what it’s all about."

There is not doubt that Ohio is certainly "what it's all about" when it comes to electoral politics for a president expected to be in a tough fight for reelection this November.

The first half of the play-in game between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State was a low-scoring 23-19. Asked for his analysis, the president noted, "Well, I've got to say both teams are shooting terribly. May be nerves. These are not teams that normally end up coming to the tournament. But some of this is just going to be somebody getting a look, a few open shots outside to open things up because it's real clogged in the middle."

Cameron, who was captain of his college tennis team, said this was his first basketball game. He called the action "fast and furious," and "hard to follow sometimes exactly who’s done what wrong."

"And he’s gonna teach me cricket," Obama interjected. "'Cause I can't follow --."

Cameron did say he would fill out a bracket and, gesturing to the president, added, "He’s going to help me fill out my bracket."

Earlier, Obama's Final Four picks were revealed, two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2s -- No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 2 Missouri and North Carolina. Part of Obama's picks will be unveiled tonight after 11 pm on ESPN and then his national champion at 9 am ET tomorrow.

Obama, a Harvard grad, also congratulated his alma mater for making the tournament for the first time since 1946. He noted that his education secretary Arne Duncan was captain of Harvard's team, and that his friend and 2008 campaign treasurer Marty Nesbitt's son, Alex, is a freshman on the current Harvard team.

And almost fending off the potential criticism from Republicans -- that he's too focused on college basketball -- when asked if he would get to watch much of the tournament, Obama said, "The truth of the matter is... I won't see much more than the Final Four and probably that in snippets."