Heard on the Hill

Members Show School Spirit as Sweet 16 Games Begin

Manchin, Cortez Masto go head-to-head while other members are torn

The Sweet 16 round of the NCAA March Madness starts today and members are showing their school spirit. And talking a little smack.

Sen. Joe Manchin III is the only member of Congress who is an alumnus of West Virginia University — he graduated with a business administration degree.

“I picked them in my bracket to go all the way. Everyone thought I was crazy,” the West Virginia Democrat said. “If you just watch them, since they lost the championship in the Big 12. … I’m just so impressed, I really am.”

[Roll Call’s 2017 March Madness Bracket]

WVU plays Gonzaga University at 7:39 p.m., Eastern time, on Thursday, another university with only one alumna in Congress. Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto received her law degree from Gonzaga.

“I’ll have to get with Catherine. I’ll have a little bet with her,” Manchin said.

Cortez Masto said, “There’s no doubt I’m rooting for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. I am sure they will come out on top and make it to the finals.”

She said she was also rooting for her other alma mater, the University of Nevada, Reno, “but, unfortunately, they did not make it.”

She had Nevada winning the whole tournament in her bracket, but they lost in the first round to Iowa State.

Manchin said the Senate might still be voting at game time, but he will be watching it “somewhere in Washington.” Then he talked some trash about West Virginia’s other senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

“Shelley’s a big Duke girl, so she got beat and we were happy about that,” Manchin joked.

West Virginia GOP Rep. David B. McKinley has a degree from Purdue University, which is also in the Sweet 16, but WVU is located in his 1st District.

When asked if he is torn about who to root for, his office said he is rooting for WVU all the way, and is a huge fan.

Texas Republican Rep. Joe L. Barton is the only other member with a degree from Purdue. 

South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy also finds his loyalties split this tournament.

He has his undergraduate degree from Baylor University but received his law degree from the University of South Carolina. The two schools play each other on Friday.

“I wish the men weren’t playing each other, but they are and right now I think USC needs the win more,” Gowdy said, showing his allegiance to his home state.

“[Baylor] Coach [Scott] Drew has a perennial top 20 team. USC is on an upward trajectory and making the Elite 8 or better will help USC with recruiting great young players,” he said.

Both of Gowdy’s alma maters have reached the Sweet 16 in the women’s tournament and could face each other.

“If the women play each other, I will pull for a tie,” he said.

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, both Democrats, have degrees from schools located in their districts.

Pocan is rooting for the University of Wisconsin, where he got his undergraduate degree.

“What this senior class has been able to accomplish together on the court is remarkable,” he said. “Coach Greg Gard has done an amazing job in his first full season as head coach. Wisconsin basketball has proven they can win games in March.”

DeFazio earned his master’s at the University of Oregon and is all in for the Ducks. They play Michigan tonight.

“Although the Michigan Wolverines have the support of my friend Congresswoman [Debbie] Dingell and her Twitter-star husband [former Rep. John D. Dingell], Oregon has the greatest fans in the nation,” DeFazio said. “I’m confident that Oregon will pull out a victory.”

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