Bill Clinton: president, philanthropist, statesmen … diehard college basketball fan.
While President Barack Obama’s love affair with college hoops is well known, his predecessor might just be the first “March Madness President.” While in office, Clinton traveled to the Final Four to watch the University of Arkansas win the 1994 national title. Even with his busy schedule he still makes plenty of time to watch college hoops.
At the end of a wide-ranging interview about youth empowerment, health care reform and the 2012 presidential election that will air Monday on MSNBC 9 a.m. ET, Clinton gave his Final Four winners' picks for tonight exclusively to NBC: Ohio St and Kentucky.
On the Ohio State-Kansas game Clinton told me: “And the Ohio state, that guy's great – (Jared) Sullinger’s great – but I think I would put Ohio State as a slight favorite, and I would put Kentucky as a slight favorite, just massively talented.”
“But Kansas, it’s a tough call between Kansas and Ohio State because Kansas has actually played better as the tournament's gone on and showed more coherence in their game than they did in, even during the season. But I’d say, I think Ohio State is a slight favorite.”
On Kentucky-Louisville: “I think Kentucky is a slight favorite. I love Louisville, you know it’s a Big East team so I see them and to full disclosure (coach) Rick Pitino is a friend of mine. But I love the team so I wouldn’t be shocked if Louisville won, but Kentucky ... they’ve got big-time talent and not just their player of the year but it’s just a talented, talented team.”
The 42nd president was originally high on Syracuse but thought the loss of Fab Melo hurt the Orange: “I didn’t think that they could get all the way – I wasn’t surprised that Ohio State won without this center. I think Syracuse would if he’d been playing.”
The former president was especially high on one team – Florida. “Even though they were eliminated from the Final Four, they’re a seven seed, they’re really the story of the tournament. They had the most convincing wins, the most solid the most well-balanced team. I mean they just came out of nowhere and played out of their minds consistently.”
President Clinton plans on watching both games tonight. He even scheduled events at his annual Clinton Global Initiative University Conference around the games.
Clinton even weaves bracketology into his initiative, pitting college kids and their social service based commitments against each other in a Final Four-like online tournament.