All right, for the first time since I was about six, I'm going to stay away from the NCAA tournament this year. This is a whole new version of March Madness for me. Because I'm mad. And I'm boycotting the tournament -- and urge all you Gator fans to do the same.
Those of you more familiar with my basketball bias will assume I'm doing this because my Kentucky team, for the first time in 17 years, didn't make the tournament. Not at all. I wouldn't have picked Kentucky this year either. They just weren't that good and, most importantly, nosedived at the end of the season.
I'm doing it because of the disrespect and unfairness shown by the selection committee to the Southeastern Conference. First the SEC should get four teams in the tourney even in its worst year. They only got three (and that because Mississippi State forced a bid with their tourney win). Auburn would be my fourth, but Florida, South Carolina, and even Kentucky could have made a case -- hell they're all in the same class as Maryland, California, and Minnesota.
But that's not the real reason either, because my feeling was that LSU, Mississippi State and Tennessee would surprise people. I thought the SEC would have a chance to redeem itself in the tournament. But then I saw the brackets -- which amount to a slaughterhouse for the SEC.
First let's take LSU, the class of the SEC this year.
The Tigers have Marcus Thornton, Tasmin Mitchell and Garrett Temple. The first guy is flat awesome and the last two started on the 2007 Final Four team. This year they went 26-7 and won the SEC outright by three games. That deserves a five seed even in a down year for the conference, probably a four. They gave LSU a goddamn eight seed. Unbelievable. California got a seven. Stinking Oklahomas State got an eight. West Virginia, a team Kentucky beat, got a six. The list goes on.
This is outrageous. But it gets worse. They put the Tigers in Greensboro, N.C. First they get Butler -- always a tough out. LSU didn't deserve Butler in their first game. But it gets worse. If they survive Butler (which I believe they will) they get North Carolina. In North Carolina. It's a suicide mission.
I think the selection committee set it up that way so they couldn't be proven wrong for giving no respect to the SEC this year. If LSU made the Sweet Sixteen or god forbid the 8, it would make the selection committee look stupid for giving the SEC no respect. So they crush them in the brackets. My prediction is that LSU gets past Butler and gives North Carolina a huge scare. But it's going to be damn hard to win that game.
So LSU doesn't even get a fair chance to show the world that the media and selection committee was wrong about them and the conference. That's just cowardice.
So what about Mississippi State? More of the same.
This is a team that has great chemistry, gutsy shooters, and a guy named Varnado in the middle. With a 23-11 record, the Bulldogs should have been in the dance even if they lost the SEC championship game today. Thankfully they didn't much to selection committee's obvious chagrin. They smacked the Bulldogs with a 13-seed. No respect at all. They were a nine seed, ten at worst. And guess what? They get to play a very very good Washington team in Portland. You know where Portland is? It's in Washington's backyard, that's where. Another goddamn suicide mission. Though again, I think Mississippi State is going to scare the daylights out of Washington and just might pull it out.
Tennessee they made a nine and they'll get Pittsburgh after they dispatch Oklahoma State. Again, I think a team that wins the SEC East should be a six, at least until its proven in the heat of March Madness that the SEC really is a basketball conference on the decline.
I thought the SEC got a bad rap all year by the myopic media, but now the selection committee (thanks Mike Slive) has stacked the deck against the conference. That's why I say screw 'em. And I have one last thing to say: Just wait until next year.