Back Nine: All seeding gripes stop as tourney tips off tonight
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 12, 2012 at 9:08 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after almost a week in New Orleans, which means I've had it up to here with oysters, gumbo and Kentucky fans. This week, the bracket-aholic in me is sticking to hoops all the way through this column.
10. After sleeping on it, I think I have a better understanding of why Florida received a lower seed than most expected (including UF coach Billy Donovan). I don't agree with it, but let's face it — we can complain all we want about the BCS but the NCAA selection committee is flawed as well. Because it is made up of humans. I think the reason Florida got a seven seed rather than the five projected by ESPN's Joe Lunardi has something to do with Will Yeguete's injury but also with who Florida beat and where they beat them, as chairman Jeff Hathaway said repeatedly Sunday. Certainly, Florida's win over FSU got heftier as the Seminoles' season went on, but it was at home. Florida played a difficult non-conference schedule, but the Gators lost at Ohio State and Syracuse. It's clear this year's committee didn't reward teams for scheduling if they couldn't pull off the wins. Florida's best conference road win was at Alabama, which was missing its best player. Here's the best way to look at it — Florida got a good break each of the last two years. It was due to get a bad one. Two years ago, nobody thought Florida was in the tournament and they got in. Last year, the committee ignored Kentucky's blowout win over Florida in the SEC title game, seeding UF second and Kentucky fourth. Seeding FSU third and Vandy fifth and Florida seventh for this tournament is still baffling even with these explanations. But in the end, it's the same story — go play the game. All of the pre-tournament chatter stops tonight when March Madness tips off.
11. So I filled out my bracket in the New Orleans Airport and by the time I got on my flight I was disgusted with it. I have two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds in the Final Four and we all know that's not going to happen. I have Florida going two-and-barbecue which would hardly surprise anybody. I have Vanderbilt losing early. Don't buy into the Vandy team that showed up at the SEC Tournament. I'm warning you again. In the end, I have Kansas winning the whole thing. So don't pick Kansas. Again, I'm warning you.
12. You almost had to be there to understand it. Maybe you could tell from watching on TV or listening to the radio, but that didn't tell the whole story of the way Kentucky traveled again for basketball. By Wednesday evening, they were everywhere. I heard some interesting conversations about it on the “media” bus (and I cannot put enough sarcastic quotations around that) about how they'd do the same for football if they were any good. I suspect they would not because things like the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament are their BCS bowl games. When I mentioned to an SEC official that the “media” bus was full of Kentucky fans who were complaining that the bus wasn't rowdy enough, he said, “We're just glad to have them here because if they weren't here I don't know how many people would be at the games.” You can come up with your own conspiracy theories about officiating, but it is vital to this league that Kentucky is around for the weekend in the SEC Tournament. Otherwise, tumbleweed would have been blowing through the New Orleans Arena. Like it did when it was in Tampa.
13. The SEC kind of won two conference titles this weekend when Missouri won the Big 12 and its fans chanted “S-E-C! S-E-C!” with less than a minute to go. Welcome to the Tigers, who will travel for basketball. But I hate to break it to the Mizzou faithful — you're going to have a hard time finding tickets. The Kentucky fans will start saving their “cigarette money” as John Calipari put it and will buy up as many tickets as possible for next year's tournament in Nashville.
14. A tip of the visor has to go to the SEC, which put on an excellent SEC Tournament even if they screwed up the trivia questions on the video board. They were dealing with a venue they had never been to before because the previous SEC Tournaments in the Big Easy were at the Superdome. The New Orleans Arena is a little tight for the media boys, but it's great for the fans. Still, I think New Orleans is going to be a rare destination for this tournament. The city has too much going on to be bothered with it and it's clear from talking to Mike Slive last week that this is going to be a Nashville tournament with occasional stops in places like Atlanta and St. Louis.
15. Certainly, Amanda Butler and the Gator women deserve a pat on the back for making the tournament as a No. 9 seed, but it still is pretty amazing that both years Butler has guided her team to the tournament they have had to face the best team in the land if they win their first-round game. The same thing happened in 2009 when they had to go to Storrs, Conn., and faced UConn in the second round. This time it's Baylor. At least we get another Florida-Ohio State match-up in the postseason. This is the first time both men and women have made it since 2006.
16. OK, I will sneak in a little non-basketball talk in here because it's important to acknowledge the three-peat national title for the men's indoor track team. That's a great accomplishment for Mouse Holloway and his young men. And this just in — Jeff Demps is fast.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Tony Gerdeman, who covers Ohio State for Theozone.net — “Charles Barkley's questions are given to him by a fourth-grader who got his question from his dad, who got the question from a co-worker.” I like Chuck, but his questions to Hathaway before the Sunday games were painful to watch.
18. I tried it twice but the stench of the bleach mixed with whatever else on the sidewalks of Bourbon Street plus cabbies in a hurry made it dangerous to walk too much. Still, the iPod was busy in the Courtyard Marriott fitness center. Try these downloads — “Three-Legged Dog” by Firewater and thanks to Hope at Sneaky Pete's for the suggestion, “Shooting The Moon” by Mona and for the old school in you we'll go with an homage to the Big Blue Nation and “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent.