Monday, March 17, 2008

A look at the SEC's Pairings in the Big Dance

Been away from the interwebs for the past few days, but I'm back now. But what a weekend in Atlanta. And, after back to back one-and-done performances, it's safe to - at least for now - it's no longer Catlanta. My SEC Tourney bracket was way off as I backed the wrong 6-seed making a run.

As far as dance bids go, it's nice to see the league get 6 teams in, but none of the 6 got a favorable draw... at all. UT is easily the cream of the crop in the conference this year, but they're (somehow) paired with UNC, which garnered the #1 overall seed, meaning - in the committee's eyes - UT was the weakest of the 2 seeds. I understand the Vols being behind Texas, as the Longhorns won head to head, and possibly Georgetown, but Dook? The dookies again got about 2 seeds higher than they deserved, but when you have your own personal spokesperson on the World Wide Leader, that sort of stuff happens.

Overall, not a great March in store for SEC teams. Inexperience and bad matchups will be the undoing of most teams in conference, as the SEC will place just one team in the Sweet 16 and none in the Elite 8. Here are some initial thoughts about the SEC's chances.

#8 seed Arkansas: The Hogs are drew a favorable 1st round game against an Indiana team that has been in disarray since Kelvin "Can you hear me now?" Sampson was fired for being a dumbass. IU squandered a real shot a deep run, as they've got one of the top freshman guard int he country (Eric Gordon) and one of the top post guys (DJ White) as well. These guys were cruising before the poop hit the fan. Now, it's hard to see them being organized and focused enough to beat this Arkansas team. Next would be the Tarheels, and even though I feel that Tyler Hansbrough is the most overrated, overhyped college basketball player in years, Arkansas doesn't have much of a chance here. The Hogs will be 1-1.

#2 seed Tennessee: The Vols were done no favors. Not only did they end up in UNC's region, they're going to play a very good mid major team in the 2nd round, then a Rick Pitino-coached Louisville team in the Sweet 16. South Alabama (I think they upset Butler) will be playing in their home state and - having played Vandy and Ole Miss to the wire and beaten Mississippi State - will not be afraid of the Vols. Then, the matchup with tournament master Rick Pitino comes up. During the regular season, I'd give the Vols the advantage, but in March, give me Rick Pitino (or Tom Izzo) over any other coach in the country. I think the Cardinals clip the Vols in Charlotte. The Vols will be 2-1.

#4 seed Vanderbilt: As good as Vandy was during the season - particularly at home - they're not built for tournament success. They rely to much on jump shots and don't play very good defense. A cold night from the floor and they don't have anything to fall back on. AJ Ogilvy - though a big body - doesn't play aggressively around the rim, and while it may not cost them against Siena, it will be their undoing against Clemson in the 2nd round. Clemson will pound them inside for 40 minutes and send the 'Dores home. Vandy goes 1-1.

#8 seed Mississippi State: As well as the Bulldogs played in conference, I expected them to be seeded higher than an 8 seed, probably a 6 seed. Shows how little the selection committee though of the conference this year. They'll take on the Oregon Ducks in round 1, which will be an interesting matchup. My gut tells me that MSU wins fairly easily in the first round as the Ducks have no inside matchup for Rhodes and Varnado. But then comes the Memphis Tigers, assuming the entire team isn't wearing prison sweats by then. MSU matches up well with Memphis and if the Bulldogs had a little steadier PG play, I'd think they stood a good chance of knocking off the Shelby County Penal League champs, but as it stands, I see the Tigers winning. MSU goes 1-1.

#11 seed Kentucky: A lot of griping nationally - and from fellow SEC fans - that UK got in despite a horrendous non-conference schedule. The 'Cats battled injuries and learning a new system before gelling in SEC play. Any team that wins 12 SEC games is NCAA-worthy. Period. Even without PatPat, I think they matchup well with Marquette, who can be a one-man show sometimes. I see the 'Cats exacting revenge for the Elite 8 upset a few years back, then being hammered by Stanford. No way the 'Cats play with a well-disciplined team that has that much size in the middle. UK goes 1-1.

#14 seed Georgia: One day, I'll figure out how in the world UGA won as many conference games in the SEC Tourney as they did all season long. The sad part is that they stand NO chance of being able to duplicate that magic in Washington, DC. The 'Dawgs are a remarkable story as it stands now, but come Thursday, they'll be the first SEC team knocked out of the Dance. UGA goes 0-1.

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