Florida's back in the NCAA field after two years in the NIT. I believe their success in returning depended on the outcome of yesterday's SEC Tournament championship. Once Kentucky beat Mississippi State, no matter how close it was, there was no logical way to pick the Bulldogs over Florida without saying the regular season was meaningless. Is MSU better than Florida? If both teams play their best, I'd say so. The reality is State didn't play their best often enough, beat no one of any value out of conference, and had multiple terrible losses on their resume. UF had to be the choice if MSU didn't beat UK. I firmly believe the committee had one spot assigned to MSU/UF depending on the game's outcome. I've read a number of things claiming Florida must not have been a bubble team since they were a ten seed. Remember, just last season a USC team that had no shot of making the field otherwise won the Pac-10 tournament and were assigned a 10 seed. Just because that's the number you were given doesn't mean it reflects your actual standing.
Just as Florida likely should be lower than a ten seed on pure merit as opposed to what it takes to make the bracket work best, BYU should probably be higher. This is a very challenging opponent for the Gators, one which may have gotten a seven because they have to be in a Thursday/Saturday region due to the school's Mormon status. Florida is capable of beating BYU, because their inside play is pretty weak, but this will not be an easy game. I'm not sure if the 12:20 start time (which equates to a 10:20 AM start for BYU) is a good or bad thing for UF. Last time they were in this spot of being the first game of the tournament was in 2004 against Manhattan and they were awful. We'll see if this group comes out with some intensity after getting wrecked early by MSU Friday and really struggling at the start of four of their last five.
ESPN has done Joe Lunardi a great disservice by overexposing him so much the last couple of years. He had Gator fans worked up with his proclamation they would not make it in, which was incorrect. Lunardi used to just be on ESPN's website, which was fine. Now his "last four out" are on the bottom line as if they're news, and he's on the air all the time! Lunardi has never been an athletic director, basketball coach, or a member of the selection committee. He has no way of understanding which factors matter most to a particular year's committee, since its makeup changes every year. My dog Mader could have picked out about 93 percent of this field. Lunardi's job is to correctly call the teams that make up that other seven percent as well as guess the seeds. Check his seedings of teams like UTEP or Clemson - off by three full spots. Lunardi's a guy who used to do this as a hobby and is now touted as some all knowing guru. He's not, and never has been. ESPN needs to dial the Lunardi hype way down.
As for the bracket overall, I'm not thrilled about the way the field is set up. Kansas seems to have gotten a particularly challenging region, while Duke has little to scare it. If you're the Blue Devils, you could get to the Elite 8 by beating a 16 seed, a mediocre and inconsistent Louisville team, and a Purdue squad without its best player. The committee sure gave Jacksonville some real hot teams - other than Duke, they have a 16 seed, a Cal team that's not likely to bring any fans or have alums there, three private schools, plus Wisconsin and Louisville. Gee, thanks guys. All about the tournament today - I'll broaden back out tomorrow.