DEVILLE: March already buzzing with madness

It could possibly be the best three weeks of the entire year.

It's tournament time!


Don't know about you, but March Madness is without a doubt the most exciting period of the college sports season. Sure the bowl season is nice and even watching the College World Series on ESPN can be entertaining. But is there any doubt that the excitement, drama and storylines of the NCAA Tournament dwarfs the rest of the college sports world.


While football does rule the roost in Tiger town as it does throughout the rest of the SEC, the beauty of basketball is it owns something college football will probably never possess – a playoff system. It is a beautiful near flawless way of determining one overall champion for a season.


Notice I said "near" flawless.


While the field of 65 makes every college football purist drool, the selection process for the Big Dance is one that can be viewed with a certain amount of scrutiny. However it hardly compares to the blood boiling controversy that surrounds the BCS brouhaha each December.


In this season's NCAA Tournament field, six SEC teams got the nod on Selection Sunday. A year in which the SEC was predicted to struggle, the league sent more teams to the Big Dance than the ACC, Big 12, Missouri Valley and Pac-10, all of which were listed as stronger leagues than the Southeastern. Only the Big Ten, which sent six teams as well, and the Big East's eye-popping eight teams, sent more schools to the tournament.


As for the controversy, look no further than the SEC to bring about some serious head-scratching. Tennessee, which lost four of its last six games and fell in its first game of the SEC Tournament to unranked South Carolina, received a No. 2 seed much to the shock of everyone, most notably LSU coach John Brady.


Brady, who was elected SEC Coach of the Year over the Volunteer's flamboyant Bruce Pearl, led his team to a 4th seed after coaching the Tigers to an SEC title, a 14-2 league mark and a trip to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.


LSU lost in that semifinal matchup to eventual SEC Tournament champ Florida. The Gators were awarded a No. 3 seed for their showing in the SEC Tourney, but a pitiful non-conference schedule and less-than-impressive showing against South Carolina, a team which beat Billy Donovan's team twice in the regular season, was far from being worthy of a No. 3 seed.


At any rate, Tennessee drew a dangerous Winthrop team, which may be better than its No. 15 seed. LSU got sharp-shooting mid-major upstart Iona while the Gators are set to face a pesky South Alabama team. Donovan has had is problems with first round upsets in the past. Will the Gators be bitten by the upset bug again?


The other three SEC teams fell considerably lower in the brackets than the league's top three teams. Arkansas, which closed out SEC play as the hottest team in the league, drew a No. 8 seed and will face a tough Bucknell team, which is much better than many people think.


Kentucky also got an eight-seed and are, in most people's eyes, in big trouble. Two seasons ago, UAB bounced Tubby Smith's team out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round in one of the tourney's biggest upsets. Don't think it will be an upset when the Blazers follow suit this season. However, it will instead be in the first round.


Alabama struggled through some early SEC obstacles but managed to land in the Big Dance as a No. 10 seed. The Tide will face 7th-seeded Marquette, a team which underachieved at times this season.


Outside the SEC, other interesting tidbits include all three Louisiana teams making the same region. Southern, Northwestern State and LSU all were grouped in the Atlanta region with the Jaguars getting the opportunity to be Duke's first victim of the tournament. Northwestern State drew Big Ten tournament champion Iowa as a 14 seed while LSU gets No. 13 Iona.


One of Sunday's biggest shockers was that 26-2 George Washington, which was ranked in the top 10 most of the season, was dropped to an eight seed after GWU was embarrassed by Temple in the Atlantic-10 tournament.


The biggest gripe can possibly come from Missouri State, which won 20 games and finished tied for second in the ultra-competitive Missouri Valley Conference. Despite having a high RPI, MSU was penalized for a weak non-conference schedule and a 4-7 record against the conference's top five teams.


As for LSU, the Tigers look to get Tyrus Thomas back at full strength and are already picking up some votes of confidence in the early stages of the tournament buzz. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel has LSU as his Final Four sleeper.


Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.


At any rate, enjoy the tournament's first two rounds. Check out our full preview on pages 10-11.




 Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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