- Associated Press - Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welcome to BracketRacket.

Think of it as one-stop shopping on game days for all your NCAA tournament needs. We’ll have interviews with celebrity alums drawn from sports, entertainment and politics, plus “bracket-buster” picks, photos, news, gossip, stats, notes and quotes from around the tourney sites _ all of it bundled into a quick read that will give diehard fans and officer-poolers alike plenty of material to sound smart during the day ahead. Look for it Thursday through Sunday mornings on the first two tournament weekends. So without further ado:


Actress/Kentucky alum Ashley Judd can play tough. In “Twisted,” she plays a San Francisco cop whose father was a serial killer and whose former lovers _ as one movie promo put it _ “start dying around her at a furious pace.” In her new ABC show, “Missing,” Judd plays a suburban single mom and flower-shop owner who just happened to be a ruthless CIA agent a few years back. Man, do those skills ever come in handy when she crosses the pond to chase the murky kidnappers who took her son _ in wedge sandals.

But Judd is a bundle of nerves once March rolls in, even with the pre-tournament favorite in her corner. The last time she revealed her brackets in public, for USA Today, she called it “one of the most vulnerable things I’ve ever done in my life.” So now she fills out two, one based on the “experts” opinions and in the second, “I go with what I want.”

We suspect both end with her beloved Wildcats hoisting their eighth national championship trophy. Only UCLA, with 11 to Kentucky’s seven, has more.

Judd is worried about a speed-bump in the second round against UConn or Iowa State, but after that, “we definitely have the added benefit of playing in Louisville (an hour’s drive from the Lexington campus) and it will be all blue. Then I think we’ve got a really nice path to the championship game.”

She’s picking North Carolina to be waiting at the Final Four in New Orleans _ for all the good that will do the Tar Heels.

“It’s a blue-chip matchup, it’s a battle of the titans,” Judd continued, channeling some inner Dickie V. “Even the legends of both programs show up in the gym when we play on the big stage. We beat them earlier this year at Rupp Arena, we beat them last year on our way to the Final Four and I think we can beat them in the 2012 championship game.”



Could it be a coincidence that President Barack Obama’s Final Four _ Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio State and North Carolina _ all happen to come from so-called “swing states” a few months out from the 2012 elections?

In his annual “Barack-etology” picks for ESPN, the smooth-shooting southpaw reveals he’s big on momentum, swayed by great guard play and he loves Michigan State coach Tom Izzo _ who doesn’t? But he’s got Vanderbilt rolling over Harvard, where he played plenty of pickup games in law school before putting a court in at the White House, and he likes North Carolina _ which swung from the red column in 2004 to blue in 2008 by 0.32 percentage points _ to win it all.

Sounds reasonable. But just wait until Ashley Judd sees it.


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