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The perfect setup

Selection committee daring you not to pick Florida

Posted: Sunday March 11, 2007 9:41PM; Updated: Monday March 12, 2007 1:44AM
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Will Joakim Noah and the Gators be cutting down the nets in the Georgia Dome again after the national championship?
Will Joakim Noah and the Gators be cutting down the nets in the Georgia Dome again after the national championship?
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Now that the committee has spoken, I suddenly realize my fellow pundits and I wasted a whole lot of time and energy these past two weeks hemming and hawing over the identity of the four No. 1 seeds.

While the label does carry with it considerable prestige, I'm guessing it's not going to carry a whole lot of influence on the outcome if, say, No. 1 seed Kansas meets No. 2 seed UCLA in the Elite Eight (in the Bruins' home state, no less). Or No. 1 North Carolina meets No. 2 Georgetown. In fact you could just as easily flip the two teams' seeds and be no less the wiser.

More importantly, however, is the message the committee sent with its designation of Florida as the tournament's No. 1 overall seed. Forget RPI rankings, Top-50 records or late-season slumps. The committee basically formalized what most of us already believed: The defending champion Gators are still the team to beat until proven otherwise.

Before you get too knee deep in filling out your bracket, before you find yourself staying up until 3 a.m. dissecting the UNLV-Georgia Tech matchup, you need to answer the one question that towers over all others this Selection Sunday: Do I think Florida will repeat? Because I've got to say, judging by their draw compared with those of the other top seeds, the committee is all but daring you not to pick the Gators.

Let's take a stab at what the committee was really saying when it drew up this bracket, shall we?

"Kansas: Love you guys. You went 14-2 in the Big 12 and those last two games against Texas were breathtaking. But you know what, you still make us a little nervous, what with those first-round exits the past two years. And, you know, the whole 'We've-got-18-McDonald's-All-Americas but-not-a-single-go-to guy' thing. We're giving you a No. 1 seed -- but we're putting you up against a UCLA team that was considered the top team in the whole tourney as of four days ago. And we're throwing Duke, Kentucky and Pittsburgh in your region just for kicks."

"UNC: Wow, you guys are talented. Just curious: Have you ever timed Ty Lawson running a 40 while dribbling? What is he, like a 4.28? Nice work winning the ACC. But seriously ... could you guys be any more inconsistent? You really think you can win six straight games starting three freshmen and a guy in a funny mask? Tell you what: We're putting you in the same region as Georgetown, arguably the most consistent team in the country the past two months. Oh, and you might get to play Texas in the Sweet 16. It's got a couple good freshmen, too.

"Ohio State: Fooled you, didn't we? You thought winning 17 straight games would net you the No. 1 overall seed, right? Wrong! We're not quite sure why we tabbed you No. 3. Perhaps we still remember that massacre against Florida. Or maybe it's just our way of saying that the rest of your conference (besides Wisconsin) was a steaming pile of garbage. Whatever the case, we're pairing you with America's biggest mystery team, Memphis, and a bunch of really dangerous lower seeds: Texas A&M, Tennessee, Louisville, Nevada. We felt bad, though, so we threw in Virginia."

"Florida: What can we say? You guys are the bomb. All five starters back. You beat people by 30 when you feel like it. And our teenage daughters just love Joakim Noah. Here's what we're going to do for you. We're going to make you the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. (Why the Midwest? Good question.) And then we're going to place you with a sagging Wisconsin team that's missing one of its best players, an Oregon team that surely used up its mojo in the Pac-10 tournament, a Maryland team that just lost to freaking Miami and a Butler team that peaked in November. We'll see you in Atlanta."

Of course, that will only get the Gators two-thirds of the way home. After that ... it's up to you? Is this team really so good it can turn it on against anyone? Or were those season-long lapses of mediocrity cause for concern?

Let's put it this way: UCLA, UNC, Kansas, et. al., are all capable of beating Florida that final Saturday or Monday. The hardest part, however, will be getting there.


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