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Jeff Eisenberg

Obama honors Duke, takes heat for picking against them

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

When the Duke team he projected to bow out in the Elite Eight visited the White House on Thursday morning, President Obama knew he would probably take a little grief from Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the national champs.

"He went out with all these guys and won, so he could come to the White House and crow about it," Obama quipped. "Payback is sweet, isn't it, Coach?"

The Rose Garden ceremony in honor of the Blue Devils gave Obama and Krzyzewski a chance to make amends after their mock spat from the previous spring. Obama (correctly) chose North Carolina to win the 2009 national title in his presidential bracket, prompting Krzyzewski to tell reporters, "as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets."

"I know that all of you remember last year when I filled out my bracket I picked North Carolina to win it all," a smiling Obama said. "It wasn't anything personal. Just trying to win some money. I was right. Coach K wasn't too happy. He basically told me to stick it. Or stick to my day job, is what he said."

Obama heaped praise on a Duke team that won the ACC title and edged Butler in the national title game last month, complimenting players by name for their contributions and the whole squad for its teamwork and community service. He closed his speech by wishing the Blue Devils good luck next season when they again figure to be one of the favorites to win another national title.

"I suspect that you're going to try to bust my bracket once again," Obama said. "But I may not make the same mistake twice."

In case Obama needed another reminder that Duke had proven him wrong, Krzyzewski presented him with a wooden panel with the 2010 NCAA tournament bracket on it and a big Blue Devils logo in the middle signifying they'd won the national title. Players also gave the president a framed Duke No. 1 jersey with his name on the back, a gift Obama said his assistant, former Duke player Reggie Love, will cherish.

"You know Reggie's going to make me hang this in the Oval office," Obama said. "We'll take down Lincoln or something."

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