So what’s the deal?

Seedings make one wonder what committee values

By Brian Rickerd Published:

LEXINGTON — So what is it? Does the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee choose the field for the Division I basketball tournament based on body of work or recent results?

Best I can tell, it depends on what suits particular committee members on that particular day. And it can vary by day and by team.

The only certainty about the committee members is that you know they are not going to send Duke to play west, north or south of North Carolina.

Like so much the NCAA does, this whole business is filled with hypocrisy.

In this year’s field, Kentucky is an eight seed, despite rave reviews this weekend in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, where UK ripped LSU and Georgia and lost to No. 1 Florida, 61-60, in Sunday’s final.

Kentucky opens Midwest Region play Friday night around 9:45 in St. Louis against No. 9 seed Kansas State. The winner will likely see No. 1 seed Wichita State Sunday.

Sunday’s winner will likely see Louisville in the round of 16 the following weekend in Indianapolis.

Among the teams seeded higher than Kentucky in the tournament are Texas (a disaster the last month of the season, but a seven seed), Massachusetts (huh?) a six seed; Saint Louis — losers of four of its last five games — a five seed. Just to name a few.

Who knew the Atlantic 10 had become college basketball’s new super conference?

Obviously, the committee penalized 24-10 Kentucky for struggles that, admittedly, lasted through much of the regular season.

The committee ignored the fact that coach John Calipari’s Wildcats clearly found their mojo at the SEC tourney, just as they ignored that Louisville played like the best team in the country in the Cardinals’ American Athletic Conference, seeding U of L No. 4 in the Midwest.

This supposed body-of-work factor drives me insane.

I would like to think the winner of the NCAA Tournament will be the team playing the best in March/April, not the best team in November and December. So the field for the tournament should be seeded that way.

Seeds matter. Ask Wichita State, a team that faces, arguably, the toughest road of any No. 1 seed ever to a potential national championship. Ask Kentucky.

Body-of-work is like awarding actors and actresses lifetime achievement awards at the Academy Awards. Nice honors, but not always relevant to current reality.

I give Calipari and the Wildcats credit for pretty much saying the right things after the NCAA draw. Kentucky will have to play well to beat Kansas State Friday. No need to give the Manhattan, Kansas Wildcats bulletin board material.

“They made their minds up that that’s what this team was,” Calipari said of the selection committee’s assessment of his Wildcats. “The only way you can prove ‘em wrong is go play ball. We’ll go to St. Louis and play.”

“We thought we would get a little higher seed than that, but we’re fine with it,” said UK freshman center Dakari Johnson. “We just have to go out there and compete. We know we can compete with anybody in the county.”

“It doesn’t really matter at this point,” added freshman guard Andrew Harrison. “You have to go play.”

Tournament notes
My gripe with this year’s field is almost exclusively with the seeing, not with content. You can make arguments that SMU and Wisconsin-Green Bay should be included, but I can’t get too worked up over that.

Seeing Tennessee in a play-in, er, first-round game Wednesday vs. fellow 11 seed Iowa is bizarre. The Vols were one of the hottest teams in the country over the last month of the season, apparently just missing out on that body-of-work garbage.

The Vols’ 2013-14 slate included an 87-52 win over Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the East Region. Apparently the selection committee ran out of toner for its printer in assessing the Cavaliers’ body-of-work.

Tennessee played Florida to the wire in the SEC Tournament semifinals before falling 56-49. A series of similar efforts could make the Vols a Final Four threat out of the loaded Midwest Region.

ESPN’s analysts all picked Michigan State to win the national title, and I have no great argument there, though I still favor Florida. My top five heading into the tournament are Florida, Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky and Wichita State.

Teams just under the radar that could make a run include UCLA, North Carolina, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
My Final Four is as follows: Florida, Michigan State, Oklahoma State and Louisville.

Should we be fortunate enough to see a UK-Louisville regional semifinal, the key will be Cardinals’ senior guard Russ Smith. If Kentucky can get Smith in foul trouble, UK wins. If not, Louisville wins.

I still think UK can beat anybody, though I also still wonder if the Wildcats can go to the well and play their best over six consecutive games.

Thanks to the NCAA, they’ll have to.

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  • "Our strength of schedule's three or four, depending on where you look. Three or four. Our RPI is anywhere 12, 13, 11, right in that range," said the Kentucky coach. "I mean, that sounds like an eight-seed to me, but I don't know."

    Yeah, the Cats played a tough schedule, but they were 1-4 against Top 25 RPI teams. Sure they beat a UL team that ws still trying to find itself in Rupp Arena back in December, but the Cards are a much different powerhouse now as anyone who watched their games at the end of this season would attest.  And a UK - UL re-match on a neutral floor would be a formidable taks for the young Cats indeed.

    The Cats lost three of their last four regular-season games. They lost to South Carolina, one of the worst teams in a league that had just three teams picked for the NCAA Tournament. They were swept by NIT entry Arkansas. And they lost by 19 at Florida in the season finale.

    They did beat NIT bound LSU and Georgia in the tourney...big whoop.  Although UK almost beat Florida, it should have if they could have hit just one more 3 pointer (went 3 -11 3's, none in the first half), or shucks just guarded Frazier III as he roamed the offensive court like an invisible man sinking 3's. 

    These McDonald's All-Americans came to UK to play the best, and by golly they are going to get to if they just get by K-State...thanks to the NCAA.  "It showed," James Young said, "that we could play with anybody."  Yes, James, on a given night you guys can play with anybody...but can you beat them?