Don’t complain about seeds; look to matchups

03/12/2012 10:37 AM

05/16/2014 6:13 PM

They booed in Columbia. This should’ve been a happy moment, of course, a celebration for a terrific basketball team that can make the first Final Four in Missouri history even if it plays no better than it did this past week in Kansas City.

Instead, with confetti falling at the watch party, they booed. It was an awkward moment, but some fans are upset because the number next to Mizzou on the brackets being filled out in office pools today is a “2” instead of a “1.”

This is silly, but you heard it everywhere. And because this is an instant-reaction thing in an instant-reaction world, Twitter might be the best place to see the silliness. It came from the

media, Mizzou players and loads of fans

.

This is not meant to pick on Mizzou.

Plenty of Kansas fans are griping about not being a top seed, too (different situations, but Kansas State fans seem to be taking a more reasonable approach

regarding their No. 8 seed in the East Region).

Just stop. All of you.

“It doesn’t really matter,” said Tom Izzo, who will try to make a seventh Final Four at Michigan State. “It’s nice for conference prestige, but it doesn’t really matter.”

Complaining about seeding is among the most predictable and tired traditions in sports. Of course the selection committee makes mistakes. Its members are in charge of determining 37 at-large bids and 68 teams overall, so there is no way to avoid disagreement here. But to spend any energy worrying about the seeds is a waste of time.

Coaches understand this. Matter of fact, one of the reasons I believe seeding is overrated is the overwhelming sentiment from so many coaches that seeding is overrated.

Maybe you saw an interesting few minutes on CBS’s coverage of the bracket. Mizzou coach Frank Haith — who asked fans not to be disappointed by a No. 2 seed before the announcement — told a national TV audience that he didn’t think seeding mattered much. The TV folks then went to KU coach Bill Self who said, “I agree with Frank.”

Historians will remember this as the first time Self has agreed with anyone from Mizzou in years.

Look, by the numbers, it’s true that top seeds historically have an advantage. They win 78 percent of their games, compared to 70 percent for No. 2 seeds. And in the last 20 years, 33 top seeds (41 percent) made the Final Four to 17 No. 2s (21 percent).

But that’s because the No. 1s are — spoiler alert — usually better.

Accepted powerhouses such as Florida in 2007, North Carolina in 2005 and Duke in 1992 never had to sweat out their seeds and, besides, could’ve won from any line in the bracket. Watch Kentucky this year.

Teams wobbling between the No. 1 and 2 seeds — like KU and MU — don’t have their chances decided by paperwork.

This is the first year the committee has released the order of its seedings, which means MU fans are understandably peeved at being eighth (KU was fifth). But the much more important factor is matchups. And, honestly, does anyone think the Tigers or Jayhawks got a bad draw?

They are No. 2s in regions with the bottom 1s, and any concerns about potential matchups — some KU fans are already concerned with Detroit star Ray McCallum, and Virginia’s grind-it-out style and star Mike Scott might be difficult for MU — can be generally answered with, “This is the NCAA Tournament; it’s not supposed to be easy.”

For instance, think about this: Michigan State is probably the kind of team Missouri figures to struggle with. The Spartans are big, tough and have given up 70 points in only six of 34 games this year.

But in the last decade, the top two seeds have played in the regional final only 30 percent of the time.

In the other 70 percent, matchups and luck mattered far more.

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