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The Eight

OK, I think we can all acknowledge we were hoping for more respect from the selection committee.  As an 8-seed, we were closer to not being in the tournament than we were to the kind of seeding we'd hoped for.

To analyze whether this was a good seeding for us, let's look at the particulars.  We won our conference going away, but we lacked quality wins and we finished weak.  Let's look at the other 8-seeds in the tournament:

  • Ohio State:  Finished a distant 4th in the Big 10, but were winners of 4 in a row before being ousted from their conference tournament.  They beat Butler, Indiana x2, Michigan x2, Purdue, Notre Dame, Miami, Minnesota, among others
  • Oklahoma State: Finished a distant 5th in the Big 12, finished the season OK, winning 2 of 4 after having a hot streak of 6 wins in a row.  Wins over Texas, Texas A&M, Siena, Rhode Island, among others.  A couple close losses to Oklahoma don't look too bad.
  • Brigham Young: 3-way tie for the Mountain West Conference Championship with New Mexico and Utah State.  Finished the season 25-7 and were winners of 10 of their last 11 before being eliminated in their conference tournament by San Diego State.  Wins include Utah State and Utah.

Looking at this, I see two points.  First, it's clear the NCAA had no respect for the SEC.  We got only 3 bids and one of those was a surprise automatic bid.  We're the highest seeded SEC team at 8.  Tennessee is a 9, and Mississippi State is a 13.  Fair enough.  Is there any compelling reason to believe that Tennessee is all that much better than Florida, South Carolina, and Auburn, who did not get in the tournament?  Should any of them have gotten in?  I know the SEC was weak this year, but I did not expect the conference to get so disrespected.  

Second, we were killed by our weak finish.  Brigham Young's resume is nothing special, but they got into the tournament on the strength of winning 10 of 11, even though they didn't really play anybody other than Utah in that stretch.  Utah, however, is better than any team we beat this year, and of course they creamed us back in January.

Oklahoma State's resume doesn't jump out at me either.  I know the Big 12 was a good conference, but 5th in that conference is as good as winning the SEC?  And where are their strong OOC wins?  For that matter, where are their strong in-conference wins?  They had a nice strong finish, with lots of wins before their loss in the conference tournament, with only a loss to Oklahoma thrown in.  But just like us, they got the bulk of their wins against teams that the committee didn't see fit to select.

Ohio State's resume is not too bad, even though they finished 4th in their conference.  They had a lot of good wins and finished strong.  I don't have a big problem with being declared their equal.

We draw Butler, who is a pretty tough team for me to get a read on.  Their two leading scorers are both 6'8" forwards, one of whom has a bit of bulk.  Matt Howard leads the team with 14.6 ppg, mostly from the inside.  Gordon Hayward is an inside-outside threat averaging 13.2 points per game and hitting 44% from 3-point range.  He shoots them about as often as Bo Spencer does.  Other than those two, their offensive threats are pure guards.  Other than Hayward, they do not shoot 3's very well.

They're a post team, but they don't really have the length to exploit us like some other teams have.  They shoot a lot of 3's, but are not not very effective at it other than Hayward.  Guard Shelvin Mack shoots 3's as well, but hits them at only a 32% rate.  As a team, they have shot about 150 more 3-pointers than we have, but they hit them less frequently than we do.  They're a down-tempo team, scoring only 67 points per game.  

It's an interesting matchup.  I can't wait to see how it plays out.  If we win, we get the winner of North Carolina vs. Radford College.  Those Radford boys could be trouble.