WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament champion Kentucky Wildcats to the White House Friday.
The president congratulated the Wildcats on their eighth national basketball title and noted that he had picked them to be in the title game, but not to win it all. Kentucky beat Kansas 67-59 April 3 to win the tournament.
"Now, this was the fourth year that I filled out my bracket on ESPN," he said, drawing a laugh when he added. "And what I've learned is that if I make the right picks, I look like a genius. But if things go the other way, then a team like Kentucky gets to come to my house and remind me, in person, that I was wrong."
Obama said he hadn't picked Kentucky to win the tournament because "they got all these freshmen"
"And keep in mind, at this time last year, three of the Wildcats' five starters were still in high school," the president said. "Michael Kidd-Gilchrist couldn't even vote yet. But let's face it, sometimes talent trumps experience. And sometimes, a bunch of young players, even if they're used to being big fishes in their ponds, even if they've never played together before, they can buy into a system, they understand the concept of team, and they do something special right away."
Obama credited Coach John Calipari with getting a roster that included six former all-Americans "to do something even more impressive, and that was share the ball. So you had six players average double figures in points this year; nobody averaged more than nine shots a game. If you didn't play defense, you didn't play."
"And I want to congratulate them for doing their share of community service in the Lexington (Ky.) community -- from packing backpacks full of food for kids who don't have enough, to raising money for tornado victims," he said.
Calipari said after the Wildcats won the title game, "they were jumping up and down not saying, 'We did it! We won!' They were saying, 'We're going to the White House! We're going to the White House!' Because they wanted to meet you."
Calipari presented the president with senior Darius Miller's No. 1 jersey and a basketball signed by the team.