Pearl peeved by 2 seed

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said all the right things about being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But you could tell he was peeved.

``I've moved on to American University,'' Pearl said of the Vols' opening-round opponent Friday in Birmingham.

But Pearl, surrounded by a bunch of curious media types, listed so many reasons as to why the Vols should have been a No. 1 seed the shot clock would have expired. Twice.

``Just tell me what the rules are and I'll try to play by them,'' Pearl said.

He thought the rules were to play a tough non-conference road schedule – and win. He thought the rules were to have a high RPI – the Vols not only had the highest RPI in the nation, they had the highest of any team this decade and the second-highest over the past 15 years. He thought the rules were to capture your conference championship – the Vols won the SEC by two games.

``We weren't just outright (champions),'' he said. ``We were down right.''

Tennessee was 12-4 against the NCAA tourney field, 11-3 against the RPI top-50 teams and 6-2 against top-25 RPI teams, including 3-2 away from home.

Memphis, the second No. 1 seed behind North Carolina, was 2-1 against the top 25, all at home. One was a loss to Tennessee.

Kansas, the fourth No. 1 seed, was 6-2 against the NCAA field and 2-2 vs. the top 25.

Thus, UT played 16 teams in the field – plus bubble teams Ohio State and Florida – compared to eight for Kansas and fewer than that for Memphis.

All of that was worth no more than a two seed – matching a program best from two seasons ago.

Perhaps the perception that the SEC was down hurt UT's seeding. But the SEC got six teams in the NCAA tourney and Conference USA got one – Memphis.

In 2006, Pearl thought Tennessee would be a three or four seed. He said the NCAA Selection Committee has been known to move a team up or down a seed so it can play closer to home. That might have been the case this year.

``You can move a line very easily because of geography,'' Pearl said.

Or maybe the committee put more emphasis on conference tournament results than regular-season results. And UT got knocked out in the semifinals.

Tennessee heads to Birmingham, and, if the Vols win twice, they go to Charlotte.

Venue-wise, Tennessee couldn't have asked for more.

Respect-wise, well, UT fell short. And that could provide just the motivation Pearl and his team need to make a deep run in the tournament.

Pearl tried to put things in perspective.

``I remember getting a two seed a few years ago and we all jumped out of our chairs,'' Pearl said. ``Now we get a two seed and we're bummed out.

``Don't take this for granted. We're disappointed about being on the two-seed line. … But we like our matchups.''

It UT beats American University, it would play the winner of Butler-South Alabama on Sunday. If UT wins that game, it would be in line to face three seed Louisville. If UT wins three games, it is projected to play the No. 1 overall seed, North Carolina.

``We've got a tournament to play in Birmingham,'' Pearl said. ``If we're good enough to win that, the next tournament is in Charlotte. If we're good enough to win that, the next tournament is the Final Four.''

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton seemed a bit puzzled by UT's No. 2 seed.

``It may be a chip on our shoulder,'' Hamilton said. ``Bruce is a smart guy, and I think he'll use it as a motivational tool.''

Hamilton said the NCAA selection committee has different members in different years, but there is some carryover. He said UT would not re-think its scheduling just because it feel short of a top seed.

``We've been the beneficiary of playing that schedule,'' Hamilton said. ``Two years ago we wouldn't have gotten a two seed without playing that schedule.''

Still, Hamilton would like to meet with committee members to find out why the Vols were not only snubbed as a one seed, but relegated to the last of the two seeds.

He did have one conjecture.

``I think our league may have been underrated,'' Hamilton said.

If Tennessee players were annoyed at the two seeding, they didn't show it.

``It's great, I like our draw,'' Duke Crews said. ``Everybody wants a one seed and we felt we played well enough to get a one, but at the end of the day, a two seed, not too many people will cry over that, either.

``You know it's a great day in Tennessee basketball when you can be a little upset about a two seed.''

FREE THROWS: About 5,000 tickets were available recently for the first two rounds in Birmingham. A book costs $153. Call 1-800-732-4849 or go online at www.southtix.com. UT's ticket allotment is 550. For the Sweet 16, UT's allotment is 1,250.


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