VETTEL: Gators Rewarded for Great Year

It was excruciating for all to wait and wait for the last group of eight teams for the Florida Gators to learn their NCAA fate. But the wait was well worth it. Billy Donovan's eighth NCAA Tournament team will be the second to stay home, facing South Alabama Thursday in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville invite was no surprise. Florida has been hanging around the edges for top 16 consideration for weeks and cemented that status with SEC Tournament wins over NCAA-bound Arkansas and LSU. The # 3 seed is a bit of a surprise, considering the Gators' less than sterling R.P.I. for most of the season, but it supports what I have been saying all along. The NCAA seeds are more likely to resemble the polls than the ratings formula anyway.

I like Florida's draw overall, though I was rooting for Atlanta. The projected second round opponent Oklahoma is a solid, physical team but not the kind of match up nightmares like Villanova last year or Michigan State down in Tampa in 2003.

Mixed Feelings About First Round Opponent

Gator partisans enjoyed watching John Pelphrey's South Alabama Jaguars win the Sun Belt Tournament early last week. But now, Pel becomes the enemy as his team will try and upset the Gators come Thursday. The former Gator assistant has done a fine job in Mobile, but the good wishes he received from Gator fans will end right after the introductions.

I spoke with Pel at length on Friday and he was reluctant to speak about the possibility of facing off against his former boss and mentor. But eventually he admitted this was a game he did NOT want to see happen. It certainly takes some of the joy out of the accomplishment for his program. But not as much as Thursday's outcome likely will, but it's one of those things the NCAA selection committee loves to do. We'll have more on South Alabama in a few days, but they are not big, they are not great shooters. They have excellent experience, speed and depth. They will press a lot… and then some more.

Give the Commissioner a Cigar

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive got a contract extension a short while back and he earned it this afternoon. Tennessee goes out in its first SEC Tournament game, finishes 21-and-7 and gets a 2-seed. Florida overcomes its RPI for a 3-seed. LSU, which joins the Gators in Jacksonville, gets a 4-seed despite five non-conference losses. Alabama also had five non-league setbacks and lost five of its final eleven games, but got a solid 10-seed and Kentucky can't kick about being seeded-eighth, even though they got a tough draw with U-A-B in round one followed by Connecticut.

But nobody should be happier with the Commissioner than the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs not only got a favorable 8-seed and a nice draw against Bucknell, but they get to play in Dallas. How would you like to be Memphis? Bust your butt for five months, and you earn a number one seed. Your reward includes a virtual road game in round two, because Dallas will be up to its armpits with Hogs of all sizes for that one.

As Always, Some Strange Selections

Cincinnati is without a doubt the best team that did not go dancing. It turns out the Cincinnati/Syracuse game was an elimination game in the first round of the big East Tournament. How on earth you take George Mason and Utah State over the Bearcats is beyond me.

Two of the oddest things were in the SEC with Arkansas going to Dallas and Tennessee checking in with a two-seed. Illinois faded to a # 4 selection which I cannot agree with, while UCLA leaped up to a # 2 somehow.

Round-One Upset Alerts

Teams seeded # 6 or better are the top 24 teams in the nation. Teams seeded # 11 or worse are considered outside the top 40. So here are the best upset chances at first glance:

  • # 12 Texas A&M versus # 5 Syracuse ---- Did the Orange use it all up?
  • # 12 Utah state versus # 5 Washington ---- Huskies have not been impressive away from home.
  • # 16 Albany versus # 1 Connecticut --- No, it won't happen, but Albany is as good a # 16 as the tournament has ever had.
  • # 14 Xavier versus # 3 Gonzaga ---- Anytime Adam Morrison isn't great the Zags struggle.

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