Grading the SEC Teams' March Madness Draws

Kentucky might have to rematch the Indiana team that beat it, but that's not such a big deal.

We saw the field of 68 revealed last night, so now it's time to look at the draws that each of the SEC teams got. Matchups are a critical part of March Madness, as a favorable draw can propel a team beyond where it should go and an unfavorable one can doom a team too early.

Kentucky

Draw grade: A

The Wildcats are playing their first two games in Louisville, and 1-seeds are 68-1 in their home states in the tournament since it expanded to 64 teams 1985. They're basically guaranteed a Sweet 16 appearance right there. The 2-seed in the region is Duke, who is the weakest of all the 2-seeds. The Blue Devils are only No. 17 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings despite that high seed. Baylor is fairly seeded as a 3, but the team went 1-5 against the two Big 12 teams roughly on UK's level in Kansas and Missouri. Indiana of course beat Kentucky in Bloomington back in December, but the Hoosiers are a different team away from home and have lost senior point guard Verdell Jones to injury within the last week.

All in all, Kentucky has a fairly favorable draw for a 1-seed. The advanced stat guys actually, in aggregate, think 5-seed Wichita State is the second-best team in the region. That could be a very interesting Sweet 16 game if it happens because the Shockers do have some size to match up with Kentucky's frontcourt. Perry Jones III versus Anthony Davis would be very entertaining in the Elite Eight, but I'm almost rooting for the storybook matchup with Duke there just to watch Davis and Terrence Jones abuse all kinds of Plumlees.

Vanderbilt

Draw grade: C

Vanderbilt's first opponent and likely second opponent, should it get by Harvard, are very similar in that they are good defensive teams that like to play at a terribly slow pace. Harvard ranks 329 in Pomeroy's tempo ratings; Wisconsin clocks in at 344. The Crimson is arguably underseeded as a 12, as is Wisconsin as a 4. If the Commodores make it through, they get rewarded with Syracuse, the only team along with Kentucky to finish the regular season with only one loss. None of these teams are ones that Vandy cannot beat, but it's certainly not an inviting slate.

Geography is not a big deal early, as the opening rounds in Albuquerque are a long way away from everyone. The regional final in Boston favors Syracuse, though. The real key is making sure that the big, emotional SEC Tournament win isn't the pinnacle of the season. Kevin Stallings has already made a habit of bad first round losses; his past three tournaments have ended in the first round at the hands of a 13, 13, and 12-seed, respectively. If the Commodores are merely satisfied with the win over UK yesterday, Harvard will send them home.

Florida

Draw grade: C+

The likely first two games for Florida couldn't be more different. Virginia is a very strong defensive team that isn't quite so good on offense, whereas 2-seed Missouri has the top offensive efficiency in the country while being just 76th in defensive efficiency. The good news for UF is that neither team is big. Virginia's tallest players who aren't suspended for the season are 6'8", while the tallest guy in Mizzou's seven-man rotation is 6'9". Florida has only one true inside player in 6'9" Patric Young, though 6'10" Erik Murphy does some work down low too.

Should UF make it to the Sweet 16, they're likely to face either Marquette (tallest player: 6'8") or Murray State (tallest player: 6'9"). That's why UF's draw gets a C+ instead of a C. It's not that favorable, as Missouri is basically Florida only better and more consistent. However, no one has the size to fully exploit UF's interior weaknesses until a hypothetical Elite Eight game with Michigan State, where the Gators would get trucked for sure.

Alabama

Draw grade: D-

Bama has an even bigger mismatch in its first game than the Gators do. The Crimson Tide is 109 in offensive efficiency and 9 in defensive efficiency; Creighton is 5 in offensive efficiency and 183 in defensive efficiency. I like Alabama's odds here, with its defense being able to slow down the Jays' shooters while its offense is scoring on Creighton's absence of defense. It will probably be close, as most 8/9 games are, but it's not a terrible matchup for Bama.

The real problem comes in the next round. It will be against 1-seed UNC in Greensboro, North Carolina. UNC has never lost an NCAA tournament game in its home state, and, as mentioned above, 1-seeds are 68-1 in their home states since '85. Not only are the Tar Heels the superior team, but an Alabama win would be historic in the true sense of the word. I was thinking before Sunday that the Tide's defense might propel it to the Sweet 16, but it got buried by the committee. Bama's number of potential wins is one and only one.

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