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Does winning the SEC Tournament even matter to selection committee?

Vicky Graff Photo

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

The confetti has now all fallen in Nashville. The Auburn Tigers walked away with the big SEC Tournament Championship trophy after spanking a lethargic Tennessee team 84-64. The NCAA Selection Committee has handed down its verdicts and the seeds are all decided for all four regions on the NCAA Tournament brackets. 

So the question is: Did the the playing of the SEC Tournament have any impact whatsoever on the seeding process for SEC teams?

Based on the comments I heard from the head of the committee, Stanford’s Athletic Director Bernard Muir, it appears that most of the teams were already penciled into their spots earlier in the week before the SEC Tournament started. Muir also went on to say that that the bracket is actually finalized on Saturday night and is only “scrubbed” if needed on Sunday if any significant upsets occur in the tournaments that hold their championship games on Sunday.

In other words had Kentucky won the entire tournament they would have most likely been slotted as the overall 5-seed that Tennessee received in the South Region. As the 2-seed in that region Tennessee will potentially meet 29-3 Virginia in a regional final at the Yum Center in Louisville. It would appear that was the pathway the committee had potentially set for UK until they lost to the Volunteers on Saturday.

Muir went on to say that had the Volunteers won the SEC Tournament they likely could have jumped Gonzaga as the 1-seed in the West Region. If  that is a true statement, and we will never know now because Tennessee lost, then Tennessee could have avoided a potential matchup with the 1-seeded Cavaliers down the road. But even after the UT loss if the Committee had seeded the tournament fairly UT as the overall 5-seed wouldn’t have been matched up in Virginia’s bracket but would have been assigned a 2-seed and Gonzaga would have qualified as a 1-seed in the same bracket.

That would provide the same result as what Bernard Muir was proposing had the Volunteers won the whole SEC Tournament. Which means virtually no benefit to Tennessee had the committee seeded fairly on a S-curve and had the Volunteers won the entire SEC Tournament.

Either way UK lost to the Rocky Toppers on Saturday, gained an additional day of rest and drew the number 2 seed in the Midwest Region with North Carolina as the opposing one seed. Along the way UK could meet a 29-4 Wofford team that is phenomenal at shooting the 3-point shot and a very long and athletic 31-3 Houston team before they would get a shot at the Tar Heels. Houston is a team that only gives up 61 points per game which is good enough to be the 10th best scoring defense in all of Division 1 college basketball. UK ranks 38th giving up only 65 points per game so if UK were to beat Abilene Christian and Wofford to meet Houston in the Sweet 16 fans would be treated to a titanic defensive struggle between those to teams. It  probably would be a game similar to the UK game against Kansas State last year. Ugly and unproductive with a lot of free throw shooting.

So it appears that with UK remaining as a 2-seed and Tennessee remaining as a 2-seed after their losing performances in the SEC Tournament their was very little impact on the seeding process. Also it appears that Auburn winning the entire tournament and still drawing a lowly 5-seed — after beating an LSU team that was seeded as a 3 in the East Region, a Florida team that was seeded as a 10 in the West Region and the aforementioned Volunteers that received a 2-seed in the East as the overall fifth best team in the tournament — the SEC Tournament has proven that it is totally irrelevant and meaningless to the seeding process for any SEC team that has already qualified for the NCAA field.

The bottom line is that since the UK National Championship teams from 1996 and 2012 did not win the SEC Tournament, but went on to win the entire NCAA Tournament, it might even be detrimental to the team to have to play three games in a row ending on Sunday, travel home and then turn around and play again on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. Not an ideal scenario for any team preparing to play the best teams in the country after a long 33 game season.

It looks like the SEC Tournament should really be a qualifying event for those SEC teams that are on the bubble or have no shot at getting into the tournament any other way.  Kind of like track and field where if a participant has already qualified with a great time in their heat they can pass on the next heat to save their strength for the finals. That would allow teams like UK, Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State to skip the tournament because they have already qualified.

That would help all the teams left in the SEC Tournament who are trying to qualify and also help the teams that have done enough to prove they should still be in. Unfortunately in this world that we live in money talks the loudest and what it says is, “we can draw thousands and thousands of fans to a city to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and gain millions from television advertising dollars while we pretend that this tournament has real meaning.” 

That is what fans have been led to believe and so far it is still working. It worked again this year in Nashville.

5 comments

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  1. I say do away with the SEC tournament, I agree with Calipari, it is really meaningless. I don’t think it helped Auburn all that much either by winning it. This article advances the idea that UK’s SEC tourney loss to UT probably helped them in their over all seeding position for the NCAA field. I still think if UK had been placed it the South region it would be an easier path for them. This Houston team is scary, and beating UNC again will be a tall task.

  2. What is the problem with starting it a day earlier?

    1. HFB, do you really think these so called experts who determine the “Big Dance” seedings really give a hoot about the SEC. The SEC gets slighted every year, and that would continue even if the SEC tourney was started a day earlier. UNC didn’t deserve a No. 1 seed. They got it simply because they are in the ACC, period the end. Louisville beat them, UK beat them. Talk about slighting the SEC, LSU should have been given a No. 1 seed for winning the regular season SEC title outright. I know there is a cloud over that program now, but they did win the SEC. UK was already in, and so was UT. Maybe even UT deserved a No. 1 seed. No SEC team given a No. 1 seed, HUMM??? Don’t need an SEC tournament to determine anything. Let the regular season be the determining process across the land. Get rid of these conference tournaments. They are unnecessasy since most of the experts have already made up their minds.

  3. Larry Pup, You must be living in my mind. To my way of thinking, I can’t disagree with hardly anything you have expressed well. I’ve always thought the connoisseurs of basketball get robbed of seeing the best teams in the country, when the league winners don’t get an automatic invitation to the dance. As regards the SEC tournament, I’d still like to keep it, and start it one day sooner. I honestly believe, the Traveling Cat Fans that show up big time for the SEC Tournament and are seen on national TV, taking over HotLanta, Nashville, and any other city that host the tournament, perpetuate the vastness and image of the BIG BLUE NATION. The loyal fan base is what gives us the edge over other teams…these are the fans that CARE and insist on Excellence-we don’t want to take this away from them. As regards LSU, if the opportunity comes to play Duke, I believe they can win, provided they get a fair whistle.

    1. hfp, good points. I love your insight. Go CATS!!!!

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