The initial reaction to many, including Gator fans, when they saw Florida on the 2 seed line was surprise. National pundits turned that surprise into outrage and anger at the Selection Committee and the Gators. Charles Barkley on CBS’s show said Florida didn’t deserve the seed. Doug Gottlieb on ESPN’s show said Florida played no one out of conference. Of course, Barkley knew nothing about college hoops until his producers gave him a cheat sheet on Sunday. Gottlieb showed severe ignorance for a guy who covers the game for a living. Despite these poor form broadcasters, the general consensus was right – Florida is a bit overseeded.
I think the Selection Committee might have had BYU as the 2 seed in the Southwest all weekend but decided to move them back to 3 at the end. Instead of swapping teams across brackets, they probably just switched Florida from the 3 line to the 2 to replace the Cougars. It wasn’t as if Florida should have been a 5 seed. The Gators finished up the SEC Tournament with an RPI of 10 and a SOS of 6. They won the SEC East, a division with five teams in the Big Dance, by three full games. So the outrage wasn’t warranted. Surprise? Sure. But other teams in this field are more overseeded than Florida (see Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois and Georgia).
One of the great perks of landing the 2 seed is getting basically a gimme in the first round. Only four 15 seeds have beaten 2 seeds in the history of the tourney. The chances are better that a 2011 Florida State grad in this job market will land a job after graduating than that a 15 seed will win a game this year.
So why am I telling you to worry about UCSB? The Gauchos were a middle of the pack team this year in the Big West. Their RPI is 153 and they have only 16 wins over D-I teams this year. Well, I live and work in Southern California. I’ve actually seen UCSB play this year and know the program a little bit. They have some punch. They knocked off UNLV earlier this year. Orlando Johnson is a real threat as a scorer. He was Big West player of the year last season, struggled at times this year but found his groove the past month and can put up 30 if Florida doesn’t bring intensity. James Nunnally combines with Johnson for a potent 1-2 scoring punch. Both have good size, too. UCSB has nice size inside with three players – 6’9 Jaime Serna, 6’10 Jon Pastorek and 7’3 Greg Somogyi – who can rebound and contest shots on defense. They are a deep team, as well, playing a 10-man rotation. And lastly, their head coach Bob Williams is an excellent coach and he’ll have this group well prepared.
The Gauchos are very confident and so are a few prognosticators. Jim Rome has picked UCSB in the upset. Of course, Rome is an alum. But I’ve seen it written in a few places that this is the most likely 15-2 upset and that Florida should be very concerned. The Gators are 13-point favorites but if they don’t come prepared, the Gauchos could take them down.
So get ready for a little stress on Thursday, it might not be the cake walk you expect.