Kentucky’s John Calipari isn’t the first Southeastern Conference men’s basketball coach to complain about seeding decisions made by the NCAA tournament selection committee.
He is, however, believed to be the first SEC coach to criticize the seeding as it relates to another league member. Three hours after Kentucky beat Florida 70-54 to capture Sunday’s SEC tournament title inside the Georgia Dome, Calipari’s Wildcats were given a 4 seed in the East Region and the Gators got a 2 seed in the Southeast.
“They didn’t feel comfortable putting us in a 2, even though we beat Florida twice in the last two weeks,” Calipari said Sunday night. “I don’t know what the criteria are. Our RPI is better and our strength of schedules are about the same.”
Calipari and his players heard most of the tournament pairings while taking a bus to his house before arriving to watch the rest, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Calipari left the viewing room when Florida was picked as a 2 seed, the paper reported.
Winning the SEC tournament catapulted the Wildcats to seventh in the final Ratings Percentage Index standings — “Our RPI is a 7, so a 7 gets you a 4,” Calipari said — while Florida was eighth. The Gators had the RPI’s fourth toughest schedule nationally, compared to seventh for Kentucky.
Florida’s biggest advantage was winning the SEC’s regular-season title with a 13-3 record. Kentucky went 10-6 in league play and was 2-6 in SEC road games.
“I thought that we would probably be a 3, but I think that clearly they looked at the whole body of work of all the teams,” Florida’s Billy Donovan said Monday. “Obviously with the way Kentucky closed out the season, with the win at Tennessee and winning the SEC tournament, they certainly could have been, but I think that probably overall looking at their league record and their road record in the SEC — I think they were a 3 or 4.
“The biggest thing right now is that you want your team playing well, and I think John’s team has continued to get better and better as the season has gone on.”
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl believes the Gators and Wildcats were both 3 seeds and that Florida benefited from factors such as sites and the NCAA having to cram 11 Big East Conference teams into the field.
Florida (26-7) opens Thursday night in Tampa against UC-Santa Barbara and is in a region with top-seeded Pittsburgh, which has never reached the Final Four. Kentucky (25-8), which opens Thursday afternoon in Tampa against Princeton, could get a Sweet 16 matchup with Ohio State, the tournament’s top overall seed.
“I think if you look at the way they seed the tournament, moving one line up or down one line is something that takes place on a consistent basis,” Pearl said. “If you made me choose between Florida and Kentucky as it relates to who would get the edge, I would give the edge to Florida by virtue of them being regular-season champs.”
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...
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