Why Tennessee Is the #2 Seed In The East

Setting up the brackets is like putting together a puzzle, the pieces only fit a certain way.

I knew I should have waited to write by first post about UNC’s bracket until I thought it through instead of posting something while caught up in the initial, “the Selection Committee is clueless” meme. Well I still think they are clueless but I also think I have discovered the rhyme and reason to how the top two lines were placed. And remember, I do not profess to have a great deal of inside knowledge of how the committee does it’s work. Guys like Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm do this kind of stuff for a living and I don’t. This is simply my interpretation of what I think the committee was doing when it setup the East Regional in an effort to explain why it appears to be tougher than we all think it should be for the #1 overall seed.

Since UNC is the top #1 seed that is supposed to mean they get the weakest seed of every grouping. However, with the way the brackets are setup it does not work that way. The mistake I made initially is I assumed the committee lays out the seeds and sets up the regionals based on overall seeds. Now that I think through it I am not sure they do much of that beyond the top four and even if they did they are still not permitted to simply put any particular team against another team without certain considerations. More on that in a moment but first here are how I see the top eight teams in terms of overall seeding:

1. North Carolina
3. Memphis
4. Kansas
5. Texas
6. Tennessee*
7. Georgetown*
8. Duke

*UT and Georgetown could easily be swapped and it has zero impact on what follows.

Looking at it this way you basically have eight pieces of a puzzle you have to fit together because there are certain factors in terms of locations and conference affiliations. In this case Duke is the weakest #2 seed and we know this because they were sent to DC for the sub-regional and also sent out West in general. Since Duke and UNC are in the same conference the committee will not place them as 1-2 in the same region. The same is true for Kansas and Texas which means Texas cannot go to the Midwest. If Georgetown is the #7 overall then it is possible the committee did not want UNC and Georgetown to be 1-2 in the East again this season. So Georgetown gets sent to the Midwest with Texas going to the South and that leaves the only placement for Tennessee to be #2 in the East. And if you swap UT and Georgetown, the committee simply gave UNC the next weakest #2 after Duke which would have been the Vols.

As for the rest of the top teams in the East, Louisville’s inclusion is a little odd since I think the weakest #3 is Xavier but that might also be a result of how the puzzle fits together. Wisconsin is the strongest #3 so they put them in Detroit closer to home for the Midwest Regional. In my opinion it is a toss-up between Stanford and Louisville. If Xavier went to the East then you would have to send Louisville to the West because they would be unwilling to put Stanford there since UCLA is the #1 in that region. In this regard the only way to make the puzzle work was send Xavier to the West(which somewhat confirms their weakness,) put Stanford in the South and Louisville in the East. And though the committee says they do not look at sexy matchups, UT-Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen is exactly that. And while we are there, Stanford-Texas stands to be a good game as well should it happen.[Note: One minor mistake on my part.  As C.Michael points out, the #3 seed in the overall seed’s region would be the strongest since they would be the #9 seed overall. They would play the #8 overall and the winner playing the #1 overall.  The same is true of all the odd number seeds down the line.  In the overall seed’s bracket the even seeds should be the weakest and their opponents down the line should be the strongest. So Louisville’s inclusion in the East is not out of line.]

The issue with this shuffling to make it all work is UCLA, in my opinion, ends up with weakest #2 and #3 seeds in the West while UNC ends up with arguably the second toughest #2 and #3 seeds in their bracket. At the #4 seed, Vanderbilt is the weakest one but proximity nixed an East placement along with the fact UT is the #2 seed there. UConn is the second weakest followed by Washington State with Pitt being the toughest #4. WSU cannot go to the West since UCLA is there so they send UConn out there and because placing Pitt in the East would be unfair to the overall #1 seed UNC, WSU ends up in the East with Pitt in the South. Then again there might not be much difference between the three #4 seeds besides Pitt given the way the Panthers played over the weekend.

The only other major question I have is #8 Indiana vs #9 Arkansas in the East. Indiana I thought was underseeded here and Arkansas came in hot almost winning the SEC Tournament. This might simply be a matter of how things fell given Kent State and BYU played UNC already this season and there was probably an effort to avoid a rematch. I would have liked to have seen Mississippi State as the #8 in the East so Tyler Hansbrough would get to play against his brother Ben. In the end UNC should handle either Indiana or Arkansas but any UNC fan is kidding himself if he or she is not a little apprehensive to see Dan Dakich on the other bench even if he is not guarding Michael Jordan.

If 2005 is an indication, none of this may matter. That season UNC played a #16, #9, #5, #6 and #4 before finally getting #1 Illinois in the title game. Our issue is we look at the brackets and think it will go according to form which it almost never does. And for some reason we as fans take no confidence in the fact that this UNC has the best record in the East at 32-2(which is a unprecedented mark for UNC.) As I said earlier in the year when this blog was in a fretting mode that we all needed to step back and enjoy the show. And what an enjoyable show it has been so far with much more to come.


50 Responses to Why Tennessee Is the #2 Seed In The East

  1. C. Michael says:

    Actually, the overall #1 is not supposed to get the weakest of each seed. It is supposed to be fit to an S-curve, which means the overall #1 would get the weakest #2, the strongest number 3, and then the weakest number 4. It would set up like this:

    1 2 3 4 (1)
    8 7 6 5 (2)
    9 10 11 12 (3)
    16 15 14 13 (4)
    17 18 19 20 (5)
    24 23 22 21 (6)
    25 26 27 28 (7)
    32 31 30 29 (8)

  2. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Yeah, I forgot about that. But according to Jerry Palm they are not using the S-curve anymore or calling it something else. So Louisville is probably correctly placed there as is Notre Dame.

  3. Josh Bowling says:

    I think they should go by a template and all else is irrelevant such as (rematches, team affiliations (UNC-Kansas). The template should be the overall number one seed gets the weakest number 2 seed and so on. It shouldn’t matter at all if their happens to be a rematch. You stick with the template and let everything else fall where it may.

  4. Josh Bowling says:

    I know some would say if that’s the case then UNC would have Duke as their number 2 seed. So be it. If Duke is the weakest number 2 seed, it should be that way. STICK WITH THE TEMPLATE

  5. Josh Bowling says:

    I agree, if we are the number one overall pick, we should be able to beat any team in the country. It’s just that I want to see the overall pick to be rewarded with the easiest venue to get to the final game.

  6. Josh Bowling says:

    When I look at the brackets and if I didn’t know anything else, I would be convinced that UCLA was the overall number one and Duke was the best 2 seed. Wouldn’t you THF?

  7. C. Michael says:

    I agree Josh. There would be so much less hand-wringing if they just said here are the teams, ranked 1 – 65 and here is what happens when you lay that out on an S-curve. Now go play ball!

  8. Josh Bowling says:

    Is it just me or did anyone else think that other conference tournaments got more hype than the ACC? All I heard about was Texas/Kansas and so on. I want young ballers out there to see UNC and their success on TV and be inticed to come to Chapel Hill and be a part of the show.

  9. Tar Heel Fan says:

    If UCLA looks like the top seed then by definition Duke must be the weakest #2. Besides that when I look at the #2s I think Texas is the best one, followed by UT or Georgetown then Duke.

  10. Josh Bowling says:

    I appreciate that C. Michael. If it were that way it would solve a lot of issues, with me anyway. Bobby Knight said that the 64 best teams should be in the tournament, and if you were going to have automatic bids (thus leaving out some good teams in order to get some not so good teams in the tourney) then you should amp up the teams to 128 so that the best teams and the conference tournament winners could participate. Maybe we have the best system now, I don’t know. But couldn’t it be more simple? The best teams in?—Regardless of geographics, conferences, tournament winners, and so on. Who in the hell would you rather play (Georgia) a tourney winner, or Virginia Tech? Give me Georgia. Even though they are in and VTec is out. Crap, I bet some of the NIT teams such as VT are better than NCAA tourney low picks (conference winners)

  11. C. Michael says:

    Honestly, I’m not sold on Tenn. Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Butler cut them up in the Second round.

  12. Josh Bowling says:

    No THF. My argument was that when you look at the brackets, and if your philosophy is the best team gets the weakest number 2 seed, and the best number two seed gets the worst number 3, you would think that UCLA is the number one overall (easiest venue to the final 4) and Duke was the best number two (easiest venue to elite eight).

  13. Josh Bowling says:

    Yeah THF, if UCLA is the best number one, then Duke should be the weakest number 2. But UCLA has the weakest bracket to the final 4. And Duke meets no one (or weakest teams) until they catch UCLA.

  14. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Except they may have looked at the RPI on that one since Xavier is #9 which would technically make them the top #3 even though I think that honor belongs to Wisconsin with Lville and Stanford right behind.

    The problem is it is less about a 1-65 and more about fitting pieces in certain places based on geography, conference affiliations and though they deny it made for TV matchups.

  15. Josh Bowling says:

    C. Michael. I agree that Tennessee seems like a loose cannon sometimes. I do have a fear of their quick guards. They also seem to be able to play multiple roles. (Kinda like Ellington/Green/Ginyard.) I just hope they don’t wind up being one of those guards that UNC seems to always play that find a way to light it up against us. I also don’t think that the Charlotte area helps us that much when playing them. Charlotte is almost equa-distant between UNC and UT. Home court advantage up for grabs. I could be wrong though.

  16. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I think UT will lose before the regional final. Experts are thinking Lville will take them out but they showed in almost losing to SCAR and then losing to Arkansas that they are too inconsistent.

  17. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    Based on THF’s ranking of the top 8 teams, I’d rather see Tennessee in the UNC bracket than Georgetown or Texas, both of which match up well with UNC. In our bracket I’m a bit more worried about Washington State. I live on the West Coast so see PAC 10 games and Washington State is pretty good, is a tough team that plays well together and faced some tough competition in the PAC 10.

  18. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I will take them over Pitt though

  19. robuck says:

    Not sure this has been pointed out or not, but….

    The way I understand the pod system, the only reason that Dook is not in Raleigh for the 1st/2nd rounds is that Georgetown could not play in DC on their home court for their first 2 games. So, essentially the Committee switched where Georgetown and Dook are playing.

  20. Santiago says:

    Is anyone else tired of this thread? It’s a shame that the brackets are filled and then we have to wait almost a week to get it started. This gives people way too much time to talk. I got so tired of the ESPN (2 hour!) bracket show that I just skipped to the picks.

    The committee has to deal with geography, conference affiliations (i.e., seeding teams of the same conf so they don’t play ’til later rounds), venues (i.e., G’town can’t play in DC), and I’m sure a handful of other criteria that they will or won’t ‘fess up to. You’ll never see a true 1 vs. 64, 2 vs. 63, etc.

    VT and AZSU were left out. Oregon got in. Now Seth Greenberg nows that ACC COY the year and a 9-7 conf record don’t mean anything if you can’t compete with the best in the league (or wait until the ACCT semis to do so) and don’t beat anybody worthwhile outside of it. Automatic bids have been around for a long time, as have upsets like UGa’s SECT run. There’s a place for VPI and AZSU. It’s called the NIT. Next year win more games please and don’t be on the bubble to begin with.

    Carolina has a tough road. Maybe. Duke has a cake walk ’til UCLA. Maybe. Let’s all stop worrying about who the Committee likes and dislikes and play the games. I’m not trying to apologize for the brackets. I don’t know if they got it right or wrong. What I do know is that (1) if we’re the overall #1, we should be able to beat all comers, and (2) if UNC ever did get, and capitalize on, the easy path to a championship we’ve been talking about, then all the ABCers would just diss the accomplishment. But, they will anyway. The 1993 FF was 3 1-seeds and a 2-seed IIRC, and yet after we won, all I heard about was how CW calling a TO he didn’t have was like G’town passing the ball to UNC on the final possession of the ’82 game. That is to say, we got lucky, again. Just think how *tainted* the ’05 championship would be if we hadn’t played Illinois, or beaten them straight up.

  21. 52BigGameJames says:

    totally agree—btw “again” needs to be all caps!

  22. Josh Bowling says:

    I understand that Santiago. I am not arguing your premise here. It is just the fact that the overall number one seed should get the easiest bracket. More often than not it works out that way. Just so happens it didn’t turn out that way this year. Our road to victory is harder than it has to be or should be.

  23. C. Michael says:

    Another reason (THE reason, IMO) to be proud of the Heels…

    From ESPN:

    North Carolina was the only school among the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA men’s tournament to graduate at least 50 percent of its players.

    A report released Monday found 86 percent of Tar Heels men’s players earned diplomas during a six-year period. The other top seeds were far worse: 45 percent at Kansas and 40 percent at UCLA and Memphis.

  24. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    A number of analysts are saying that UNC has the toughest #1 seed bracket, so perhaps the committee was over-compensating for UNC having the opportunity to play their next 4 games in North Carolina. There are some strong teams in the bracket but if UNC plays defense like it did at the end of the season finale at Duke then it will not matter. Lawson is back, the bench got valuable minutes in his and other players’ absences and if the team combines a high-octane offense with tenancious defense they will be hard to stop. Throughout the ACC Tourney, to me at least, they appeared to be playing to the level of their competition, never a good thing for such a talented team. Turn on the “A” game and watch out!

  25. Tar Heel Fan says:

    There is a lot of nuance with the way the committee splits hairs. For example Wisconsin being a #3 in the Midwest is probably better than being a #2 in the East. Also remember that in 1998 when UNC played the regional in Greensboro they played Michigan State and UConn who were both Final Four teams the next season with UConn winning it all.

    I am just glad we got away from having Michigan State in our path.

  26. Santiago says:

    John Calipari and Bill Self don’t graduate players? I’ shocked! Shocked!

    I wasn’t saying that I agreed or disagreed with the premise that the East is a beast. If it all shook out the way it was supposed to on paper, as the first #1 we’d win it all and there’d be no need to play 64 games. Of course, the games won’t all go according to the seedings. I was just trying to point out that the toughest region could be a pussycat after a couple upsets this weekend. Let’s wait to see how far the ‘Heels go (hopefully 6 wins), and what teams pull upsets where before we label the road as “harder than it has to be or should be.”

  27. Josh Bowling says:

    While we will be playing in NC, our other seeds such as Tennessee & Louisvill are not that far removed from Charlotte. Charlotte is about equa-distant between UT and UNC. Not much of a damn home court advantage & shouldn’t be any committee’s reasoning for giving us the hardest bracket if you consider the proximity of those other teams in regards to playing in Charlotte. Right on C. Michael, our guys are not just athletes. THF, I am real tickled to not have to worry about playing Michigan State and their pesky guard play of Drew Neitzel. I do not want to play against teams with those type of guards. However, we did beat BC with Tyrese Rice and Duke with Greg Paulus. So maybe we would be better at performing against Neitzel.

  28. Josh Bowling says:

    Right on Santiago. Given some upsets it could be better for us. I just hate having to play Indiana and turn around and play Louisville. We might be Goliath this year but we sure as heck aren’t playing any Davids.

  29. Josh Bowling says:

    And the road on paper is tougher than it has to be. Looking at the bracket one would think that UCLA is the overall number one seed, not UNC.

  30. Josh Bowling says:

    What upsets do you envisionalize in the East Santiago?

  31. C. Michael says:

    Butler over Tennessee. Bank on it.

  32. Santiago says:

    Given our home record vs. away record this season, I think I’d rather play away games. 😉 Also, Charlotte is a Carolina town. Sure it’s in the middle of the two schools, but I’d wager there are more UNC alums and fans there than TN folks.

    If I remember my Biblical history right, if I were a Goliath team, I’d prefer not to meet any Davids, thank you very much. 😉

  33. Josh Bowling says:

    Good one Santiago. David had God on his side though. I sure hope we are able to drum up more fans when we meet UT (if that turns out to be the case). Don’t get me wrong. I think we are the best team in the land, and I hope we have more of a home-court advantage than I think we might against UT/Louisville. But if I were on the selections committee, I might would consider putting us in that UCLA bracket, even given the fact that it is much west of here. I have enjoyed your posts Santiago. Keep up with the optimism!!

  34. Josh Bowling says:

    Man, I wish we could go ahead and get this on!!!

  35. Santiago says:

    I don’t claim to know who will upset whom. There are too many bipolar/split personality teams this year to have much confidence. That said, assuming we don’t get upset along the way, I just don’t see us having to play IU, WSU, and TN to get to the FF. I suppose I’m most scared of Louisville in our bracket (I just gave them the kiss o’ death).

    The whole reason I did my original lengthy post was because I’ve heard defensive UNC fans whine about the brackets all day. Hopefully, the ‘Heels will be in Charlotte next weekend and they won’t be the only #1 seed facing tough opponents.

    If we don’t win the NCAA, I’d rather lose to a good team; if we win it all, it would only add to Psycho T’s legend if we ran through the best competition. Conversely, if Duke bows out early, I’d rather they lost to a nobody to expose them as frauds.

    According to Shakespeare, Henry V said,

    “If we are marked to die, we are eno(ugh)
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.”

    I hope it’s like that.

    (THF, sorry to get all English Litty on your ‘blog.)

  36. Tar Heel Fan says:

    “And if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it.”

    -Henry V

  37. Santiago says:

    “Men of few words are the best men.”

    -Henry V

    Ol’ Roy will be fine, no matter what the next 3 weeks bring for him and the ‘Heels. We keep playing good D and it’ll all fall into place.

  38. william says:

    I get tired of all the bitching and moaning every year by these mediocre teams that have lost 13 games. The reason they have the mid-majors in is because they have won their conferences or like GMU in 2006, shown outstanding potential where we really do not know how good they are. Davidson could be like that this year.

    Why do we need Arizona State or VPI in the tourament? They were already mediocre during the season and then, unlike Georgia, failed in their second chance in the conference tournament. Why should they get a third chance just for being slightly better than average? The goal is not to have the 64 best teams in the tournament, obviously. If it were, then we would dispense with all the conference tournaments and conference titles and just pick 64 teams. VPI has been on national television many times this year. Just quit the crying and let some of the smaller schools have a chance, or if you don’t like that, Seth, you could always join the CAA or Sunbelt conferences.

  39. TxTarheel says:

    Every Sunday / Monday in the last few years you get this talk about expanding the tourney (64 to 96, 64 to 128). But in the end it is at most a handful of 3 to 5, maybe 6, teams who have some form of gripe to make. It’s not like adding 30 suddenly makes the overall field deeper.

    I don’t care who UNC plays in the next 2 rounds or where they play it, but obviously this team has a lot of MO heading into this thing. I’m not worrying about Tennessee or anyone else until they make it past Indy/Ark in round # 2

  40. william says:

    Tar Heels on top for last AP poll

    Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
    Last Modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 2:17 a.m.
    North Carolina, the overall No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, finished No. 1 on Monday in the Associated Press’ final poll of the season.

    It was the sixth time, and first since 1998, the Tar Heels (32-2) led the final rankings. UCLA and Kentucky have finished No. 1 in the final poll eight times and Duke has done it seven. Ohio State was No. 1 in the final poll last season and the Buckeyes went on to lose to Florida in the championship game. North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champions, was No. 1 for the past three weeks of the season and for a total of 14 weeks, including the preseason poll. The only others to reach No. 1 this season were Memphis for five weeks (three unanimous) and Tennessee for one week.

    Does anybody know the other years? Would it be 2008, 1998, 1995, 1984, 1982, and 1957?

  41. A.E.M. says:

    Good article.

    I think this should be a great NCAA Tournament and there will be some games worth watching in each and every round.


  42. Will says:

    I like William’s last post about the other times we were ranked #1 going into the Tournament. Each of those years we made the final four, except 1984. Funny that Dakich will be Indiana’s coach, the guy who guarded Jordan in 1984 for Indiana.

  43. william says:

    Actually, I see I typed 1995, but I think I meant 1994, which was one of our most disappointing years for sure. I can probably confirm the final year, but somebody out there might know already. I am sure about 1957, 1982, 1998 and 2008, and I am pretty sure about 1984, although Georgetown was pretty close, I think to being number one at the end. So the other year is probably either 1994, 1987 or 1995.

  44. william says:

    Josh, to get into some of the pyschological research on home court advantage, there is more to it than just the fans in attendance, although I think there will be more Tar Heel fans around to purchase tickets from the losers on the week-night game.

    Psychological advantage also comes from having played on a particular court or place before. What happens is that an individual feels and acts stronger when a person is either in a familiar place or a place where someone has had positive feedback.

    Charlotte probably was a better home court for Carolina back when they used to play several home games there each year, including two conference games. For Duke, playing in East Rutherford is probably more of an advantage than playing in Charlotte, given that they play games their every year and have won regionals there.

  45. Tar Heel Fan says:


    It is 1994.

    Here are the final rankings in UNC history from the media guide:

  46. william says:

    It is strange. I was down in Charlotte for a wedding that week-end in 1994 and I was so blase about the game that I decided just to listen to it on the radio, so I could head back to DC and of course, WBT faded right when I hit the Virginia border when Carolina was attempting to tie up the game in the final seconds and I lost Woody’s voice.

    I guess either I was sure that they would win or I wasn’t that hungry for a title that year after our having won it all in 1993, as I would never miss watching a Tar Heel NCAA game live now. Maybe 2002 and having Duke temporarily surpass us as the nation’s top program really did make it all special again. Nothing is fun if it is too easy.

  47. william says:

    Now see, I was trying to do that from memory. For the most part, the Tar Heels have been very successful at winning it all when ranked number one. With the exception of 1977 with all the injuries, and 1984 and 1987, most of Dean Smith’s final four losses were by teams that really were not deemed to be the top team in the nation. When people have seen Carolina as being among the top 2 teams we done quite well.

    One proof of this is that Carolina is 7-1 all time in games involving number one versus number, with the most famous being 1957 and 2005.

  48. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I actually thought it was 1987 so I checked. I have the history and records portions of the media guide downloaded for fact checking since I make enough mistakes without making ones I can reasonably avoid.

  49. rbl says:

    William, you make a point about Duke having more of an advantage in East Rutherford than in Charlotte.

    I pulled up a Duke message board last night, and that point was raised repeatedly. Their fans decry the rejection in Charlotte when we are there.

    A friend of mine from Charlotte related to me how Duke, seeing how Carolina drew in Charlotte, scheduled a game against Davidson in the Queen City back in the 1960s. Instead of being embraced, the locals came out in support of Driesell and Davidson, which won a close game. Duke refused to play them again, prompting Lefty to say, “If they won’t play us again, they’re just yellow.”


  50. william says:

    Talk about making an alumnus an enemy! If Duke had hired Lefty, with their tradition and his recruiting, they never would have had that 6 to 7 year lull in the 70’s when they were usually horrible and came to the brink of losing their tradition for excellence.

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