I don’t know about the rest of you, but I haven’t watched one minute of college basketball (other than accidentally) since the end of Friday afternoon’s disastrous collapse by the Georgia Bulldogs against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Nevertheless, I am positively thrilled that the Fox Hounds snagged the ten seed in the East Region against the Washington Huskies.
Here are five reasons why making the field of 68, even if only by the skin of their collective teeth, was tremendously important for the Red and Black:
- It helps a team to build up a track record of attending the tournament. Research has shown that teams with established histories of making the tourney field get the benefit of the doubt in marginal years. Bruce Pearl has built a program in Knoxville that perennially contends, which earned the Tennessee Volunteers a nine seed despite a .500 regular season conference record and 14 total losses. The more banners a program can hang, even in one-and-done seasons, the more name recognition it will have with the selection committee in Marches to come.
- It pays the bills. Men’s basketball is a revenue sport. While it is a distant second to football in cash flow generated, it is one of only two sports with a possibility of turning a significant profit. Relevance in roundball raises the revenue that makes the athletic association run.
- It helps in recruiting. Atlanta is a fertile field in which much basketball talent flourishes. With the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in turmoil, Mark Fox is in a prime position to harvest the crop of talent emerging in our state’s largest city. Moreover, as evidenced by the recruiting class Mark Richt landed last month, a full house in Stegeman Coliseum when uncommitted football prep stars pay their last-minute visits to Athens can be a powerful tool to use in persuading high school gridiron standouts to spend their college years playing in Sanford Stadium.
- It shows that we are, and helps to make us more, serious about basketball. Let’s be frank: 20 years ago, being bad at basketball didn’t matter for an SEC program. If anything, it was a bit of a badge of honor; being good at basketball was what the Kentucky Wildcats, the Vanderbilt Commodores, and the ACC had to ease the pain of not being good at football. That changed when the Arkansas Razorbacks, a football powerhouse in the Southwest Conference, joined the league and promptly won an NCAA championship in basketball. Shortly thereafter, the Florida Gators hired Billy Donovan, and, all of a sudden, being serious about football and being serious about basketball ceased to be mutually exclusive, becoming instead a sign of seriousness about having an all-around first-class athletics department. It was one thing to be indifferent to basketball when we could snicker behind our hands at Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt; now that Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee are serious about basketball, too, we have to be serious about basketball, as well.
Damn it, I want us to be good at something besides
gymnasticssoftball. Really, this one should be self-explanatory.