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Does winning the SEC Tournament really important?

Immanuel Quickley (Vicky Graff Photo)

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?

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  1. I agree, the SEC tournament is a waste of time and energy, and a potential to see season ending injuries going into the NCAA tourney. Let the regular season be the only the way to make the big dance. Do away with conference tournaments. UK never gets a break anyway even when they have won the thing. That said, win the SEC tourney as it is now if they can, but don’t sweat it if they lose in it. UK has made their bones already. I agree with Keith on the best paths forward for UK as he outlined.

    1. Pup……what you say about UT landing 3 players on the 1st and 2nd All-Sec teams and UK only landing 1? Sounds about right don’t you think?

      1. I suppose so Mike. UK has way to much youth and inexperience and it showed on this UK basketball team all year. UT basketball in 2018-19 is a old school veteran team that has paid the price the right way. IMO, UT earned it, and deserve the accolades. Pains me to say it. I dislike the puke Orange and old “RockyTop” with a passion. Most of my hatred for them stems from their dominance against UK in football over the last 30 years. Let me add that Barnes is a great coach too. UT is a formidable foe anytime they face the Cats, they get great athletes, and they come to play.

        1. Let me ask you something Mike, if UK advances further than UT in the big dance will you give UK a little credit for doing so, even during a rock year? I don’t think UT will last long in the big dance. I could be wrong, and if so will admit it.

            • Mike on March 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm

            Yes, I will give UK a ton of credit, and it would be well deserved. I really like my team, but I guess I just have higher expectations than a lot of folks do. I like perfection even though not too realistic to expect all the time. We have the talent, especially with RT on the floor, to beat any team in the country but you don’t really know from game to game who is going to show. Can you imagine how good we could be if Nick and EJ were to consistently hit 10-15 points a game even collectively?

  2. The SEC Tournament is important for other reasons, including tradition and pride related to decades of domination of the SEC and a desire, at least on my part, to see that continue.

    As for the NCAA seeding, the NCAA has always taken care of their favored programs and stacked the deck against the likes of UK. Why would it be any different this season? They are not going to send UK west if they believe that provides UK any competitive advantage. They are already salivating over another UK-Duke collision, which they view would be en route to another Duke championship.

    As for my preferences for the big dance, I want Duke!!!!

    1. Professor, If UK were to get an easier path to the final four I would love that. As for Duke, I hope they get beat in the first round of the tourney. If both UK and Duke keep advancing, we could see Duke down the road anyway. North Carolina, the “cheating tarheels, is the team that could be a real problem too. They are not the same team UK beat earlier in the year. I hope UK gets the easiest path to another potential national championship. Wishful thinking I’m sure.

  3. I really think this sundayNCAA selection show is going to be more interesting than the previous years. The no 1 and 2 seeds are wide open up for grab regardless who wins in the most tier conference. So let the games begin. Go cats!!

  4. I would like to see Duke and Kentucky play again.
    I wish those two teams would be seeded in such a way that if they meet again this year, it would be in the national championship game.

  5. If you played for Duke, and your paycheck came from ESPN, I personally
    would think there is something wrong with you if you weren’t a Homer for Duke and didn’t follow ESPN’s party line…it’s all about $$$$/jobs , and it certainly is not a level playing field, when all I hear and see in this scenario is a split screen showing poor Zion cheering on the sidelines. With the Zags going down, I can hardly wait to see how those Carpetbaggers on the selection committee skew the seedings, locations, ref selection, etc.. Let the story unfold, it’s going to be interesting to say the least. My one big wish is that not one ACC team makes it past the sweet 16.

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