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The College Basketball Notebook


March 7, 2010 9:00 PM

Championships In Pictures

The regular season came to an end quietly, with the conference races closing out as expected. The only mild surprise was that Kentucky clinched the SEC outright in advance of today’s win over Florida, when Vanderbilt lost at home to South Carolina. The Gamecocks got 26 from Devan Downey and rare support for the star with 20 from Sam Muldrow, as they completed a year that saw them beat both Kentucky and Vandy. But as far as the championship race goes, when the Wildcats beat the Gators 74-66 in Lexington it rendered the point moot.

I’ve talked a lot about conference championships and very little, if at all, about seeding in the NCAA Tournament. That’s by design. I think the debates and fights over who should be seeded where is perhaps the most useless discussion in sports, rivaled only last fall when media commentators outdid themselves trying to decide what order Texas, Florida and Alabama should be ranked in, when it was all going to sort out head-to-head anyway. In the case of college basketball, seeding just doesn’t matter. Unlike other sports, you don’t get homecourt advantage. Unlike the NFL, you don’t get first-round byes. Unlike the NHL, they don’t re-seed after each round, meaning you really don’t know what the most favorable bracket position will be until the first upsets go down.

Now that’s not to say there aren’t certain spots where the seed could be important. The difference between the 4 & 5 lines is big, as it’s the difference between playing an at-large team, presumably from a power conference (#12) or getting a shot at a small-conference champ (#13). But overall, the debates are just not worth the trouble. And in answer to anyone who would cite the overall records of #1 seeds in the NCAA I would point out that they have that record not because of their advantageous positon, but because they already have the best teams. Whether they play the #7 seed or the #8 seed in the second round is not going to stop them.

The readers who were with me at my old Big Ten blog for the previous four seasons know that this is my annual March rant about media overemphasis on seeding, so I’ll shut up about it now. But let’s just sum it up by saying that I think the ultimate purpose of winning a conference championship is not seeding, either this coming week in league tourneys, or beyond. The ultimate purpose of winning a conference championship is…well, winning a conference championship. Over a long tough season you were the best in your own backyard. In my view, it’s an achievement trumped only by reaching the Final Four. A lot of teams have had nice seasons, but very few will get to hang a banner that calls themselves champions. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, whether March holds disappointment or glory, the teams were celebrate here tonight did that.

Starting tomorrow the Notebook is on duty each and every day, all the way through Monday Night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianpolis on April 5. On Monday, I’ll pick a Player of the Year in each major conference. Then on Tuesday, we start with conference tournament previews, and games start that same afternoon. I’ll see you here for that. In the meantime, let’s do a montage celebration of the nine teams that won or shared league titles…

Syracuse won the Big East outright, with a balanced and physical attack that was great from November to March.

In the ACC, sharing was better, as Duke and Maryland fought to a draw. The Terps clinched their share on Saturday afternoon when they hit the boards and got to the foul line in a road win at feisty Virginia. Duke had the homecourt and made it look easy at night, when they blasted North Carolina.

The Big Ten shared three times over. Ohio State was first to the winner’s circle on Tuesday night, then took the rest of the week off. Michigan State and Purdue each closed strong to join them at the top.

Kentucky won the SEC, as noted above.

The Big 12’s tough middle class was no match for Kansas, who won in the nation’s biggest runaway race.

And Cal might have struggled at times, but a win at Stanford at Saturday made them champs of the Pac-10.

Congratulations to them all. Hey, I'll admit it's not One Shining Moment. But a picture still speaks a thousand words. Don't forget to check over at www.thebaseballnotebook.com for the spring training previews that have gone up in recent days, with more tomorrow. And see you here every day for college hoops the rest of the way.

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