Mar 14 2006
10:23 am
By: Andy Axel  shortURL

Tennessee is upset about its two-seed.

One thought crossed Shanna Zolman's mind as she stared in disbelief at the giant projection TV screen in front of her.

"(The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is) trying to do everything in their power to keep Tennessee out of Boston," she said.

The Lady Vols, who won the SEC Women's Tournament after losing their only two point guards, were rewarded last night with a No. 2 seed in the Cleveland Region and one of the most difficult paths to the Final Four in Boston.

Despite playing the toughest schedule in the nation and finishing No. 2 in the RPI, Tennessee (28-4) was denied a No. 1 seed for only the third time in 19 years and placed in the same region as North Carolina, the No. 1 overall seed in the 64-team field.

Tennessee opens in Norfolk, Va., Sunday at 11 a.m. against No. 15 seed Army (20-10).

"It's a slap in the program's face," UT Coach Pat Summitt said. "I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out."

Summitt said it's the most frustrated and baffled she's ever been following the announcement of a tournament bracket.

But, then again, UT also has reason to feel fortunate about their 2 seed. On the flip-side, the University of Tennessee men's program, after finishing 21-7 (4 of those losses having come in its last 7 games), was inexplicably rewarded with a 2 seed in the Washington D.C. regional. Now, I wouldn't say that was absolutely indefensible, but their high RPI ranking managed to buoy them.

Then again, the high RPI ranking of the women's team seems to have made little difference. I understand Summitt's posturing (she's obviously taking it to the press here in an effort to bolster her team's spirits), but c'mon, Pat. A one seed isn't a guaranteed trip to the Final Four.

One thing is virtually certain: the Lady Vols stand a better than even shot of making the Final Four, if not the championship. UT's men's program, on the other hand, has to come out of a lower bracket which includes Michigan State Spartans (former NCAA champs under the leadership of Tom Izzo) and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels (perennial darlings, storied program, defending champions coached by Roy Williams).

In the final analysis? Congratulations to both programs. You can argue either of these rankings on the merits, but either way, seeing both the men's and women's programs at UT at #2 is an unexpected post-season surprise. And it's nothing but good news for UT basketball as a whole.

Let the Madness begin................

R. Neal's picture

she's obviously taking it to

she's obviously taking it to the press here in an effort to bolster her team's spirits

Good point. I thought the same thing. And I agree, congratulations to both programs. Tennessee is suddenly a basketball state (or not so suddenly in the case of the Lady Vols). Maybe this will inspire Phil Fulmer?

Andy Axel's picture

Maybe this will inspire Phil

Maybe this will inspire Phil Fulmer?

Maybe he'll feel inspired, but hopefully, he won't be getting into hoops.

He doesn't quite have the hops any more.

He who laughs last thinks slowest.

tennesseevaluesauthority's picture

Tennessee is suddenly a

Tennessee is suddenly a basketball state (or not so suddenly in the case of the Lady Vols)

Or...ahem...my Memphis Tigers.

Go Tigers. Beat Oral Roberts. Heck, beat the Oral Roberts basketball team, too.

Oren Incandenza's picture

Good points all.

Good points all.  A few thoughts:

  • In a perfect world, neither team would be a 2-seed.  The men would be a 3-4 and the women a 1.  But these NCAA seedings tend to come out in the wash over the long haul; some years you're pleasantly surprised and some you're irate.  We get to see both sides of the coin this season.
  • Both Tennessee teams got their seeding because of the good old RPI.  Both scheduled aggressively and played good teams almost every time out, and this is the reward.  You could even argue that both the men (losers of 4 of their last 6) and the women (no point guard, plug-ugly losses to Duke, KY and FL) are overseeded at 2, but you can't ignore their high RPI scores.  Kudos to Pearl and Summitt for taking on real non-conference teams.
  • I predict the women will justify their seeding -- i.e., make the Elite Eight.  The men will not, but they won't be one-and-done either.
  • Finally, look for both coaches to find ways to invoke that most tired of motivators, alleged disrespect: Summit because the 2 is a "slap in the face" that fails to honor their scheduling and success, and Pearl because most every pointy-headed bracket jockey is already picking Winthrop to pull the 15/2 upset special on us.
Andy Axel's picture

...most every pointy-headed

...most every pointy-headed bracket jockey is already picking Winthrop to pull the 15/2 upset special on us.

Oh, really? What were Winthrop's quality wins? UNC-Asheville? Liberty? Birmingham Southern?

Winthrop's record vs. any schools outside of their conference is pathetic. They lost to Memphis, they lost to Alabama, they lost to Auburn, they lost to South Carolina. They lost *twice* to Coastal Carolina, and only beat them in their conference championship by one. Total points - 101 in that game. Whatever.

Murray State has a better chance to off UNC, and those chances are slim and none. (But, as a Crimson & Blue blooded Jayhawk, I say, "Go Racers!")


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Oren Incandenza's picture

I'm not picking Winthrop.

I don't disagree with you.  I am just pointing out that Winthrop is already a trendy upset pick on the internets. 

They do have a veteran halfcourt team and a solid big man, both of which pose problems for Tennessee.  They beat Marquette, played Alabama within 3 and Memphis within 10, all on the road.  And they took Gonzaga to the wire last year.

But I still expect the Vols to get past them.

Andy Axel's picture


Oh, I wasn't disagreeing with you, either. I was disagreeing with the pointy-headed bracket pundits.

Come tournament time, there's no telling what the outcome will be. I'm notoriously bad at picking FFs myself, but at this point, I'm leaning towards Texas, UMem, UNC, and Boston College.

He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Carpbasman's picture

Memphis is a bad final four

Memphis is a bad final four pick.  Take it from someone who's watched most of their games.  Memphis can score 100 points in a game easy.  They can also go six minutes without a single goal. There's only one guy with tournament experience (Rodney Carney), and his offence is not key to the Tiger's winning.  And Memphis lacks patience, a sagging zone (or switch man) often results in Memphis throwing up threes early in the shot clock or throwing bad passes into a post.

 Memphis is more talented than any team out there but they are young.  They'll probably lose in the Sweet 16 (especially if they see Pitt).  If they make it to the elite eight, then i dunno. UCLA and Gonzaga have both lost to Memphis.  Frankly, I don't see Memphis doing it twice. Memphis will probably go out no later than the elite eight.

Bean's picture

Arguing that the LVs are

Arguing that the LVs are "overseeded" is crazy. Yes, there were three bad losses, but the team finished the season so strong that the only legitimate argument can be made is whether we are the third or fourth 1 seed, or the top or second 2 seed.  Either way, there is no honest reason we should have ended up in the murderer's row bracket we have been assigned. I do not think you would have seen Coach Summitt publicly complaining if we'd been assigned a rational slot on the famous "S-curve" that the Selection Committee professes to use -- or did use, before this season. This "geographic distribution" deal they claim they used this time is just, well, a damn lie.

Some reward for a team that lost two All-America caliber PGs, regrouped and re-tooled, found a new identity (and a zone defense) and came back and won the SEC tournament.

Andy Axel's picture

Maybe not the LVs...

Not the LVs, but the MVs.

A 2 seed is, traditionally, pretty high for a team whose record going into the tournament is slumping.

And on the one hand, you have the RPI used in favor of seeding the MVs so high, but it's ignored in the case of the LVs on the other. I don't get it, but really, a 2 seed is still a power-protected position. Statistically, too, you don't get all 1's in the final. It just doesn't happen.

I do think this is a bit of posturing on Pat's part. Sure she's earned the right to complain.


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Bean's picture

The LVs' bracket includes

The LVs' bracket includes the top "1" seed, the top "2" seed, the top"3" seed and (arguably) the top "4" seed (North Carolina, Tennessee, Rutgers, Purdue-- in that order). Throw in the PAC 10 Champ UCLA, the Colonial League Champ (ODU) and a couple more, and it's the toughest bracket in history.

Vandy, a pretty good team, will actually HOST the top-seeded Tarheels at Memorial in Nashville. How screwed-up is that?

Historically, the "seedings" bracket the 64 teams into four regions, each with one #1 seed, one #2 seed, down to #16. In the first round, the #16 team is paired with the #1 team; the #2 team with the #15, the #3 with the #14, etc. This is called the "S" curve.

Pat Summitt is POed because her team (which lost its entire backcourt over the course of the season, and has been inconsistent) was not given credit for finishing strong, and got a #2 seed instead of a #1. The insult became injury when Tennessee was bracketed with North Carolina, the undisputed overall #1 seed.

This is NOT the way this business is supposed to work.

Andy Axel's picture


This is NOT the way this business is supposed to work.

Regardless, this is the way it HAS worked.

College sports is rife with this stuff.

The only thing that matters now is how Summitt and her team choose to deal with this, which is why I surmise that she went to the press in order to buck up the team's spirits.

Look, they're not going to break the brackets nor are they going to reshuffle everything at this point. You say that this shouldn't be the way it works? This is the way it works all the time. College sports is horribly arbitrary -- from the way it disciplines some programs harshly for minor offenses while others skate by, to the way that college football championships are decided.

Like the line says in Bull Durham -- "bad trades are a part of baseball."

The only thing that matters now is performance on the court. They've had their moment in the press, and now it's time to get down to business. There ought not be another mention of this again, lest it become the seed of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don't want some aspiring Cinderella to take advantage of that.


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Andy Axel's picture


THAT was close, huh?


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Justin's picture

There was also some "rumors"

There were also some "rumors" about placing the UT mens team at #2 so they could face down Buzz at Coastal Carolina...too bad they lost against Winthrop.

bizgrrl's picture

Well, I am so out of the

Well, I am so out of the loop! What the heck is a seed? Because I do not read the sports page, my brief glances at headlines made me think of the draft (e.g. NBA draft). I got a brief lesson today. I still just don't get it, but I can definitely say I truly admire Pat (Head) Summit. I have at least been aware of who she is for quite some time.

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