WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are set to watch a first-round game on Tuesday of the US collegiate national championship tournament known as “March Madness”.
Obama and Cameron will be in Dayton, Ohio, where they will watch the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers, the only team in the event with a losing record at 15-18, face Mississippi Valley State’s Delta Devils, who went 21-12.
Both teams won conference tournaments but are regarded as the weakest teams in the 68-school event. The winner advances to a Thursday matchup against the tournament’s top overall seed, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, 32-2.
Obama is an avid basketball supporter and he has traditionally filled out a tournament bracket just as thousands of Americans do every year, hopeful his selections will mirror the eventual outcomes all the way to the April 2 final.
Cameron will have a taste of basketball before the world’s best players converge on England later this year for the London Olympics, featuring an American squad of NBA stars hopeful of defending the gold medal from 2008.
They will watch in Ohio, a state that figures to be a pivotal political battleground in next November’s US election, when Obama will run for re-election against an opponent from the rival Republican party.
Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper hopes that his players pay no attention to Obama or Cameron as they try to begin a fairy-tale run through the event.
“I hope they don’t notice those two,” Harper said. “I hope they notice those five guys in the other jersey, because they’re the ones that are going to score all the buckets.
“I think anyone in the crowd, when they leave tomorrow (Tuesday) night, they will say that team is tough and they compete.”
Hilltoppers playmaker Kahlil McDonald expects no more nervous energy at the start than usual even with Obama in the crowd.
“Once you step on the court, and you get that first up and down, it goes away, really. It’s just butterflies,” he said. “Once it goes away, it’s game time.”