"Congratulations on bringing Carolina its fifth National Championship," the president said. "And more importantly, thanks for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me before the entire nation."
The quip prompted laughter from the crowd. The president's NCAA bracket was not among the top performers in the early rounds of the tournament, but he picked North Carolina as the national champions, greatly improving his standing.
When he tapped the Tar Heels as champions, the president lauded their "experience and balance."
And he had reason to know: Last April, Mr. Obama took the court for some five-on-five with the team. It was not an unqualified success, despite the president's on-court prowess: As CBSNews.com noted at the time,"he did not make any of his shots and often lagged behind the other players on the court."
The president suggested today that the scrimmage brought good luck to both the team and to him.
"Now, I did have a chance to play ball with this crew just over a year ago when I visited Chapel Hill," he said. "And I'm not sure whose luck rubbed off on who. I think there was just a good vibe going on there, because they're now national champions and I'm now president."
"Now, when we played, everybody went out of their way to pass me the ball, set screens for me, let me take a shot," added Mr. Obama. "Tyler [Hansbrough] chose not to block my shot -- of course, I was so intimidated by him being near me that I missed it." (See video of the scrimmage at the bottom of this post.)
The president wore a light-blue tie at the event – appropriate, since the Tar Heels team colors are light blue and white.
After Mr. Obama spoke, the team's coach, Roy Williams, gave him a Tar Heels jersey with his name on it. Five seniors from the squad also presented the president with a framed photo from the scrimmage last April.