Commentary: Advantage could cost LSU and USC

Everybody is fast to criticize when things don't go their way. After Wednesday losses, LSU and South Carolina - the league's top two teams - are in trouble in the 2012 SEC Tournament. Both were upset and must now take the long road to the Championship game. Was it an advantage or disadvantage to get the bye on Tuesday?

What was meant to be an advantage for the winners of the SEC's two divisions could end up becoming a kiss of death for LSU and South Carolina. The Tigers and Gamecocks received a bye in the first round of the 2012 SEC Tournament Tuesday and were playing in their first game in the winner's bracket on Wednesday. As it turns out Florida and Kentucky, seeded three and four, will have the advantage when play resumes on Thursday. The Gators and Wildcats did not play on Wednesday and will be playing in just their second game. Their opponents, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, will be playing their third game in three days.

The question is; could the brackets have been set up differently?

First, we must look at the theory behind the bracket as it is set up now. The theory is that the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth seed would win on the first day, the third and fourth seed would get the bye in the second round, the fifth seed would meet the second seed and sixth seed meet the first seed in the second day. The first and second seed would win on day two and meet the third and fourth seed on day three. Each team would be playing in their second game on day three with a chance to advance to their bracket finals on day five. The top two seeds win and are playing in their third game with a chance to advance to the SEC Championship game.

Sounds simple enough. Unless one or both of the top two seeds lose on day two.

The SEC had to see this coming. In the SEC there is not a large gap between the teams in the top half of the league. In baseball especially, anything can happen. It was not far-fetched that Vanderbilt and Mississippi State could beat South Carolina and LSU. Both teams were able to win a game in their respective regular season series. Both were able to knock off the top two seeds on Wednesday. Now South Carolina and LSU will have to win three games in three days just to make it to the championship game. Should they make the championship game they would be playing their fifth game in five days. Not exactly a reward for a great season.

Like the BCS system in football, any system has its flaws. However, the SEC could have done some rearranging to give the top two seeds a bit more of advantage.

Instead of getting the bye in the first round, have the top two seeds play on the first day. Who gets the bye? Give that to the three and four seed. Have the top seed – LSU – play the tenth seed – Auburn. Have the second seed – South Carolina – play the ninth seed – Ole Miss. The fifth seed – Vanderbilt – would still face the eighth seed – Georgia, and the sixth seed – Arkansas – would still face the seventh seed – Mississippi State. Just like the current format, the higher seed winners would get the bye and the lower seed winners face the third and fourth seed. In that scenario, Vanderbilt would be playing Florida instead of South Carolina, and Mississippi State would face Kentucky instead of LSU. South Carolina and LSU would be playing lower seeds in their first game with more of an opportunity to get to day three unscathed.

In the current format, Kentucky and Florida now has the advantage after beating the lowest two seeds in the tournament to advance to day three. In the other format, should the number three of four seed lose on day two, then the top two seeds would have the same advantage Kentucky and Florida now have; playing their second game against a team that is playing their third game in three days.

No solution is the best solution – and the current format certainly beats the ACC's pool play – but this alternate format would give the top two seeds a bit more of an advantage than the current format.


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