"It's a slap in the program's face." – Pat Summitt, upon hearing Tennessee received a No. 2 seed for the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
The bracket announcements were 24 hours apart. The reactions were light-years apart. Pearl was elated to learn Sunday evening that his Vols had been handed a No. 2 seeding for the Big Dance. Summitt was deflated to learn Monday evening that her Lady Vols had been handed a No. 2 seeding for the Big Dance.
Both coaches were surprised.
"Can you believe it?" Pearl said, clearly mystified. He could barely fathom how a team that went 21-7 and lost four of its last six games, including its SEC Tournament opener, would be seeded so high.
"If you look at the numbers it just doesn't fit," Summitt said, equally mystified. She could barely fathom how a team that went 28-4, won the SEC Tournament, ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule and No. 2 in RPI would be seeded so low.
At first glance, it seems odd that two coaches with the same seeding should react so differently. But it's all about expectations. Summitt, with six national titles and 16 Final Fours, has been to the mountain top and expects to get there every year. Pearl, with zero national titles and zero Final Fours (at the Div. 1 level), has seen the mountain top but never been close enough to touch it. He's just glad to be part of the expedition.
Adding further irony to the situation is this: All season Pearl has been motivating his team by emphasizing how little respect they get from media and other programs. Upon seeing his team's No. 2 seeding, he noted: "We can't play the no-respect card anymore."
The no-respect card is now in Summitt's hand. Upon seeing her team's No. 2 seeding, she noted: "Obviously, very little respect was given to this team for what they accomplished."
Summitt's Lady Vols have been a No. 1 seed 16 times in the past 19 years. But this year's team, along with being seeded No. 2, suffered the added indignity of being placed in the same region with No. 1 overall seed North Carolina.
Regardless, Pearl's team faces No. 15 seed Winthrop (23-7) Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in Greensboro, N.C. Summitt's team faces No. 15 seed Army (20-10) Sunday at 11 a.m. in Norfolk.
While the Vols are putting on big smiles, the Lady Vols are putting the mad in March Madness.
"I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out," Summitt said. "But as far as I'm concerned, we got no respect and I don't understand it."