Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SEC Update

For the first time since November, Kentucky is on a five-game winning streak.  Here's how they did it:

1.  After losing at Vandy, the Cats went down to Gainesville and pounded Florida, 88 to 79.  Did I mention that I don't miss Billy Donovan at all?

2.  Then UK came home for Senior Day and ran past LSU, 94 to 77.  That left the Cats with a record of 13-5 in SEC play -- the same as Texas A & M.  But A & M got the number-one seed in the SEC Tournament because the Aggies won that ridiculous game in College Station where UK was the victim of one of the worst technical foul calls you will ever see.  So UK went to Nashville for the SEC Tournament as the number-two seed.

3.  On Friday, March 11, Kentucky blew out Alabama 85 to 59.

4.  On Saturday, March 12, Kentucky rolled over Georgia, 93 to 80.

5.  And on Sunday, March 13, Kentucky got a re-match with Texas A & M in the title game.  This was an epic battle.  A & M led 38-34 at the half.  UK led 67-60 with 4 minutes to go.  But A & M fought back and forced overtime, with both teams tied at 71.  This was the second time that John Calipari has been to overtime in the SEC Final -- the same thing happened to John Wall's team in 2010.  It was also the third consecutive time that Cal has gone to overtime or double overtime with Texas A & M.  In overtime, Kentucky finally put the Aggies away, winning the game 82 to 77.  Tyler Ulis, one of my favorite UK players of all time, played all 45 minutes, finished with 30 points, 5 assists, and only 1 turnover.

Some people take these SEC Tournament titles for granted, but not me.  I enjoy every single one of them, and I was extremely happy to see the Cats get this one.  These kids have worked extremely hard, and they have been a very unlucky team in many ways.  They deserved a trophy, and I'm really glad they got one.  Plus I wanted revenge for that game down in College Station.

So then we all waited around to see what the NCAA brackets would look like.  Only three teams from the SEC got in:  Kentucky, Texas A & M, and Vanderbilt -- and Vandy had to face Wichita State in a play-in game.  The Dores were crushed in the play-in game, 70 to 50, thus raising big questions about Coach Kevin Stallings's future in Nashville.  I would point out that Vandy went 1-3 after its big win over UK on February 27 -- the Dores had the win they really cared about, and for them the season was pretty much over.

Kentucky, of course, famously got the worst draw in the whole tournament -- a number 4 seed (even though the Cats are 8th on Ken Pom, 11th in RPI, and tied for 10th in the AP Poll).  Not only that, if UK survives the first round, the Cats will probably have to play Indiana in Des Moines, Iowa -- the NCAA's way of punishing UK for refusing to cave to IU's demand that the teams keep playing home-and-home.  And if UK gets past that game, well then they have to play the best team in the whole country -- North Carolina.  In Philly.  And if they win that game -- well, West Virginia or Xavier will be waiting in the Elite Eight.

It's a joke, and it's outrageous.  Duke, who was buried by UK earlier this season, and who finished with a worse record, got what may be the easiest number-4 seed in the history of the tournament.  Texas A & M, which is simply not better than UK under any possible measure, got a very easy 3 seed -- the seed that should have gone to Kentucky in any fair system.

To his credit, Calipari didn't even pretend that the seeding decision was unbiased.  He understands that the NCAA treats Kentucky in much the same way the Republican Establishment treats Donald Trump.  On ESPN, he openly mocked the NCAA, saying that he was just happy the Cats weren't sent to play Golden State in Alaska.  The folks on ESPN acted like Cal was just being eccentric.  But we Kentucky fans knew he had never been more truthful.

Kentucky is the only traditional member of the SEC to make the round of 64.  No Florida, no Tennessee, no Arkansas, no Alabama, no Georgia, no Mississippi State, no Vandy, no Louisiana State.  I'm pretty sure that this has never happened since the tournament went to 64 teams back in 1985.  It is a major embarrassment for the conference, but to be honest it doesn't trouble me all that much.  The SEC officiates games in a manner that makes it extremely difficult to win on the road.  Home teams won 69.8 percent of the time in SEC play, which is ridiculous.  So UK, which should have gone something like 15-3 in conference, ends up going 13-5.  And marginal teams that could have made the tournament, like South Carolina and LSU, can't get the 12-13 wins that they needed to make the Big Dance.  In my opinion, therefore, the SEC got what it deserved.  Until the Conference takes the officiating for basketball as seriously as it does for football, and rewards true excellence, its teams will always be at a disadvantage.

Here are the final SEC standings:

8.  Kentucky:  13-5
19.  Texas A & M:  13-5

29.  Vanderbilt:  11-7
50.  S. Carolina:  11-7
88.  Louisiana St:  11-7

66.  Georgia:  10-8
69.  Mississippi:  10-8

37.  Florida:  9-9
84.  Arkansas:  9-9

97.  Alabama:  8-10

81.  Mississippi St:  7-11

111.  Tennessee:  6-12

211.  Auburn:  5-13

176.  Missouri:  3-15


  1. I wish Hillary would put disbanding the NC2A into her platform. I honestly think Kentucky might be back in play.

    That SEC-tournament performance was shockingly great, and the NC2A ripoff was the worst it has ever been. It really does kind of feel like a fake NC2A tournament this year; I'm just not that excited about it. Also, that two-hour CBS show, where they announced a bracket per half hour, was just an absolute embarrassment.

    I hate the SEC, and I hate the NC2A, and I hate it that one of our two major parties is going to nominate this guy. I'm about to tune out of the whole deal.

    1. I have the same feeling about the NCAA Tournament as you -- the whole thing just feels contrived at this point.

    2. I kind of wish Calipari would get together his friends, and they just take their teams next year to that Las Vegas tournament that's trying to get off the ground.

  2. I'm watching the games only hardly, by the way. I'm just following's win probabilities.

    Nate Silver ‏@NateSilver538
    FiveThirtyEight model went 14-2 today. So did Vegas, which had same picks. But selection committee went 9-7.
    Nate Silver added,
    12:20 AM - 18 Mar 2016

  3. OK, excellent ... 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State leads second-seeded Michigan State, 15-2. It'd be cool if there was a rule in the NCAA tournament that, if you get exactly the lead of your seed against your opponent's seed, the game is whistled over at that very moment. Think how much more intense the first few minutes of the 8/9 games would be!