Rick Barnes is wondering what the point of playing last weekend was. His team flew through the SEC Tournament, picking up wins over Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M to win the SEC Championship.
They were rewarded with a No. 3 seed — which is where they started the week. Nobody can really make it make sense, outside of simply saying that the bracket was pretty much set in stone up top before the weekend.
That very much seems to be the case. We’re not going to go too deep here, you know the story by now. Tennessee beat Auburn once, Kentucky twice and had a resume that dwarfed Duke’s.
So what’s the point of playing conference tournaments? That’s what Rick Barnes wants to know.
“If that’s the way it’s going to be, if the conference tournament doesn’t mean anything and the teams that are already slotted in the tournament cannot improve their seeding, we should stay at home and let the teams that are trying to get into the tournament fight for that one bid,” Barnes said on Monday. “That gives our league a chance to get more.”
Obviously the SEC Tournament means something to Barnes and Tennessee. Winning that event is special to this program, considering they haven’t done it since 1979. But the larger goal is completely in focus — the NCAA Tournament.
If we’re not paying attention to the conference tournaments, then what are we even doing here? Either admit they don’t matter, or move them up a day or two and make sure that they do matter. Conference tournaments are a tradition, but this outright admission they they don’t really factor into the seeding waters them down quite a bit.
“There’s people out there much more thorough than I am, in terms of looking at résumés and all that,” Barnes continued. “From a coaches standpoint, this is what we have and we’re going to go from here, but on a national level and for our game, maybe a press conference where tough questions have to be answered helps people going forward. If it’s scheduling people are doing, they can take care of that themselves. Like I said, it is what it is. We’ve got to go play basketball and I’m proud of our guys for their effort that they’ve put in all year long and to have the chance to be a part of this is what we work for.”
Not that Tennessee needed any motivation, but they’ve got it now. They’ll open on Thursday against No. 14 seed Longwood, looking to prove the committee wrong over the next couple of weeks.