Posted: 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
It's time to accept it: Florida's chances at a No. 1 seed are, at this point, largely dependent on what other teams do.
The Gators have their big wins, over Marquette, Wisconsin, and Missouri, and their close and road losses, and their profile isn't going to get much better: Wins at Kentucky and over SEC teams in the SEC Tournament will really only solidify positions, and none will count as a big win. (Nor, frankly, should they: Florida beating Missouri in an SEC Tournament final is the only thing that would move my personal meter.) Florida could lose again and drop a seed line from No. 2 to No. 3, of course, but it's going to need turmoil above it on the board to move up.
Here is where rooting for very good basketball teams to win and lose comes in.
Florida's chances of winning the NCAA Tournament are better if it gets a No. 1 seed, but probably the worst landing spot for a No. 2 or No. 3 is in a Midwest Regional headed up by No. 1 Indiana, because facing the Hoosiers in Indianapolis is daunting. But it would seem unfair to reward an Indiana team that is flagging at the end of the year (1-2 in its last three, 5-3 in its last eight) with a road trip that is literally down one in-state road without that team being the No. 1 overall seed, and Duke probably took pole position for that overall No. 1 with its win over Miami and Indiana's loss to Ohio State in the last week.
Indiana plays at Michigan on Sunday, in a very difficult game: Michigan hasn't lost at home this year, and its only home game of under 1.09 points per game came against Michigan State, one of the nation's most rugged defensive teams. (Indiana is sound defensively, but rugged does not come to mind when describing the Hoosiers.) With a loss, Indiana might well have to win the Big Ten Tournament to take that No. 1 overall seed, so root against Indiana, but, just to be safe, root for Michigan on Sunday and in the Big Ten Tournament, because that will likely preclude Indiana from getting the Midwest (Michigan would almost certainly end up there if it wins out) and preclude Michigan State from hopping up a line and snagging a No. 1 seed.
Additionally, root for Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament: The Badgers provided one of Florida's best wins, one that will look far better if Wisconsin can run the Big Ten gauntlet. A Michigan-Wisconsin Big Ten final would be fantastic for Florida.
Likewise, Gators should root for Marquette in the Big East. The Golden Eagles can still, incredibly, win the Big East outright, if they beat St. John's and Georgetown and Louisville fall to Syracuse and Notre Dame, respectively, at home on Saturday, but they assure themselves no worse than a tie for the title with a win over the Red Storm. And if Florida's résumé should include a 33-point win over the Big East's regular season and tournament champion, well, that will be helpful.
Rooting against Louisville and Georgetown is also rooting for keeping spots on the bottom of the No. 1 line open for Florida: Both of those résumés look slightly better than Florida's as is, but will look a lot better if one of the two teams claims the Big East Tournament. And should you want Florida to avoid being in the same regional as Louisville after that 2012 flameout, the hard-charging Cardinals sputtering at the hands of a squad that fell to the Gators would be really helpful.
Rooting for Duke in the ACC feels dirty, sure, but Duke poses less of a threat to steal a spot from Florida as a No. 1 overall seed than Miami would as an owner of two wins over Duke, even if the Blue Devils would very possible end up heading Florida's regional if the Gators can't leap to No. 1.
Out west, Florida needs to root for Gonzaga to avoid a loss that would damage its No. 1 overall potential, and/or shake the Zags from the seemingly secure position they have as the likely No. 1 seed in the West Regional. And rooting for Arizona and Kansas State can help Florida's RPI, but won't threaten the Gators' seeding; rooting against Kansas will help keep another No. 1 free for the Gators, too.
I'll have more on rooting interests in smaller conference tournaments on Monday, but here's the nightmare hypothetical I'll leave you with today: Could you root for Florida State in an ACC Tournament final against Miami if a Miami loss would help Florida's chances of getting a No. 1 seed?