The weekend open thread is here.
Yesterday Florida and Kentucky earned hard-fought victories over UCLA and West Virginia, respectively. They both get the honor of saying they're Sweet 16 teams, which does matter. It's not as good as an Elite 8 or Final Four appearance, but it is the sort of thing that gets quoted on a coach's resume. Making it past the first weekend, after all, is something only a quarter of the tournament teams in any given year can say.
Where they go from here is where their paths diverge considerably.
2-seed Florida now finds itself as the top seeded team left in its region after Butler knocked off Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion. It faces 3-seed BYU in a rematch of last year's first round game for both teams, but while Florida has improved greatly since then, this year's 3-seeded BYU minus Brandon Davies is not that much different from the 7-seeded Cougars of last year. Also left is 4-seed Wisconsin, which, while generally a very efficient team, proved itself capable of losing a game with a 36-33 final score.
Meanwhile, barring some Butler-like magic from George Mason, Kentucky will face what is by most measures the best team in the country in Ohio State. Facing a 1-seed is usually the reward for 4-seeds who get past the first weekend.
Florida's greatest fortune may have been getting put in the same region as the perennially underachieving (in March) Panthers, but still, its 2-seed was a gift. Kentucky also got slighted a bit when it received a 4-seed, as it probably should have been a 3-seed as well. A lot of the focus of controversy on Selection Sunday was about the inclusion of UAB and VCU along with some concern over Florida's 2-seed. Kentucky's spot, which if the committee went completely by the S-curve makes UK the worst of the 4-seeds, didn't get quite as much play. We can see now better than ever that it should have.
Florida is playing a 3-seed whose rights to the seeding largely are owed to a team that doesn't exist anymore. Kentucky almost certainly will be facing the nation's top team. For two teams that aren't that far apart from each other, that's a remarkable difference. It's one more piece of evidence that this year's bracket wasn't the finest job by the Selection Committee.