By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Is it really important for the University of Kentucky Basketball team to win the SEC Tournament? If they kill themselves winning games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday against what will most likely be three NCAA Tournament teams does it hold any true value for the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament seeding process?
Right now they are looking at a possible one or two-seed in the Big Dance. If they were to lose in the first round to say, Ole Miss, they would still most likely remain as a two-seed in the region played out west. But they might also avoid some of the more difficult teams in the tournament. The Selection committee will pick two number one seeds from the trio of ACC teams — Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. The third number one seed will be Gonzaga. That leaves one spot open. In my opinion it will be either Tennessee or Kentucky.
But does anyone want to be the number one-seed in a region that has Duke or North Carolina as the two-seed? Wouldn’t it be better to have a very rested Wildcat team that is shipped off to be the number two-seed against Gonzaga in the West Region? I don’t think fan support would be a problem because UK fans travel anywhere to see Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament.
The issue becomes which seed and region would give the Wildcats the easiest pathway to the Final Four. My thinking is that the teams UK does not want to see – Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee – will be in regions other than the West.
Based on ESPN’s Bracketology UK is currently picked as a two-seed in the same region with Duke as the one-seed. If the seedings held in that bracket UK would play Loyola-Chicago (last year’s tournament darling), then Villanova, Purdue and then the winner of the Duke-Kansas game to reach the Final Four. Who wants that draw? And we all know based on previous tournament seeding that the committee seems to care more about made for TV matchups than practical and fair seeding.
On the other hand if UK were to lose in the first round of the SEC Tournament and get shipped out to the West Region as the two-seed they would face a pathway of Montana, Louisville, then LSU as a three-seed and then the winner of the Gonzaga-Florida State game. I would rather take that pathway to the Final Four over the two-seed spot opposite Duke in the South Region.
And by the way, if UK was to win its SEC Tournament games against the Alabama/Ole Miss winner and Tennessee and get the number one-seed in the Midwest, the spot the Volunteers are currently pegged in, UK would face Sam Houston St, the winner of the Baylor-Syracuse game, then Wisconsin and then the winner of the Texas Tech-North Carolina game. The Syracuse zone would be poison to this UK team and no one wants to see North Carolina in UK’s bracket right now.
I wouldn’t want to advocate losing for losing’s sake but if the Wildcats did drop the first round game in Nashville and headed back home to Lexington to rest up and see their name called on Sunday as the two-seed in the West that would seem to be a very providential turn of events.
Suffice it to say that I am not a fan of season ending conference tournaments — and especially not the SEC’s — because Kentucky never seems to benefit in the seeding process from winning its conference tournament. The Wildcats always appear to be pigeonholed into a specific spot by the committee before the SEC Tournament begins. And the Selection Committee always wants to see a Duke-Kentucky matchup because CBS wants to see a Duke-Kentucky matchup so why wear yourself out over a three day period trying to win a meaningless tournament.
So based on all the bracketology that I’ve seen and recent comments from the head of the NCAA Selection Committee my guess is that regardless of what UK does in the SEC Tournament — lose or win — they will be the number two-seed to Duke as the one-seed in the region where Duke lands or they will be the number one-seed to a number two-seeded Duke. Because after all the entire tournament was made for TV, wasn’t it?