Durkan predicted the Notre Dame women and Villanova men would become national champions.
Move over Jay Bilas, Charles Barkley and Nate Silver.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has a full-time job, but she could moonlight as a college basketball prognosticator judging by her most recent NCAA men’s and women’s tournament predictions.
Durkan, an avid basketball fan, correctly picked the Notre Dame women and Villanova men to win the national championship in brackets posted on her Twitter account last month.
The Villanova men were ranked No. 2 nationally heading into the postseason, and were regarded as legitimate contenders for the national title. The Notre Dame women were the No. 1 seed in the Spokane region, but were ranked fifth nationally going into March Madness, and few would have picked them over undefeated UConn (then 32-0) to win the national championship.
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“I’ve got some biases,” Durkan said. “The hardest thing for me it to separate head and heart. I can be critical of teams, but then I have my favorites.”
Admittedly, Durkan allowed sentimentality to override conventional wisdom as it pertained to the Seattle University women, which made its first NCAA tournament appearance. She picked the No. 15 seed Redhawks to advance to the Sweet 16, but they lost 88-45 in the first round to No. 2 Oregon.
Still, Durkan’s close connections with teams helped her bracket when it mattered most.
Durkan, who played basketball at Forest Ridge of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue, tried out for the Notre Dame women’s hoops team and was cut before working as a statistician on the squad. That’s when she developed a deep affection for the Fighting Irish that fuels a good-natured rivalry with Connecticut fans.
Durkan’s Final Four in the women’s tournament included: Notre Dame, UConn, Maryland and Baylor.
In the men’s tournament, Durkan had Villanova beating Gonzaga for the national title in part because her father Martin played for the Bulldogs as a freshman and her grandfather, Dan Noonan, attended Villanova.
“We’ve always rooted for Villanova,” Durkan said. “They’ve become such a powerhouse.”
The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments provided three weeks of March Madness and culminated in thrilling championship performances from Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale and Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo – both voted the Most Outstanding Players of the Final Four.
“I love basketball because it’s the perfect sport,” Durkan said. “Fast moving. Team play. The Final Four is what’s best about America if you look at the range of players.”
Durkan is quite the sports fan. She’s an original Seattle Storm season ticket holder who owns a personalized Storm jersey with “Durkan” on the back, and has been very involved in the ongoing effort to bring an NHL team to Seattle. She’s also been vocal about her desire to bring an NBA franchise back to the city.
Durkan also enjoys a little trash talking and the bragging rights that come with successfully picking two national champion winners.
“Hey, I beat Obama,” she said laughing while referencing former President Barack Obama who picked the Michigan State men and UConn women to win it all.