Wednesday, December 8, 2021

No. 10 seeds find steady success in tourney

March 13, 2002

If everything went as planned in the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament, all four No. 1 seeds would meet in the Final Four after they defeated the four No. 2 seeds in the regional finals.

And an eight or nine seed would be a more advantageous spot for teams to reside than a 10 seed.

But ESPN.com college basketball analyst Andy Katz said the Spartan men’s basketball team and head coach Tom Izzo should be happy with being seeded 10th.

“A lot of coaches would rather be a 10 seed than an eight or a nine,” Katz said. “It’s actually the better seed.”

If the Spartans were seeded ninth, they’d likely have to meet the top seed in the East Region, the Maryland Terrapins, in the second round.

But since MSU is the No. 10 seed, it avoids the Terps until the regional finals, one step away from the Final Four.

The Spartans (19-11) take on No. 7 seed N.C. State (22-10) in the first round at 12:15 p.m. Friday at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. And if they get past the Wolfpack, they’d likely face second-seeded Connecticut in the round of 32.

And Katz said meeting the second-seeded team in the second round is much better than running into a top seed.

“You avoid the one seed and that’s the major thing,” Katz said. “The twos are always more beatable than ones and this year is no exception.”

Katz said he thinks the Spartans could advance to the regional semifinals, which will be held March 22 in Syracuse, N.Y.

“I think they could do some damage because I don’t think there’s a huge difference between them, N.C. State and Connecticut,” he said. “So I really think they could go on to play in Syracuse.”

And history shows that a 10 seed can advance deep into the tournament.

In the past four NCAA Tournaments, 10 seeds have a combined 19-16 record, with at least one team advancing to the Sweet 16 each year.

Izzo said with talent being spread nationally more than ever, the lower seeds are no longer pushovers.

“Every year with the parity increasing, you’re going to find the eight, nine, 10, 11 and 12 seeds are going to be better,” Izzo said.

No tournament better shows this than the 1999 Big Dance, in which each of the four 10 seeds won at least one game, Purdue and Miami (Ohio) advanced to the Sweet 16, while Gonzaga came up one win shy of a spot in the Final Four after losing to eventual champ Connecticut in the West regional final.

But Izzo said it’s hard to look at past 10 seeds and apply their success to his team.

“The problem in the NCAA Tournament is matchups make such a big difference in every game,” he said.

“It’s hard to predict what would happen because there are so many good teams.”

And the Spartans have a notoriously tough seven-seed versus 10-seed matchup with the Wolfpack up first.

“A lot of times there’s not a whole lot of difference between a seventh seed and 10 seed,” Katz said.

Izzo agreed that seven and 10 seeds make for an exciting game.

“I do think it’s a tough matchup, because I think a seven-10 game is always going to be a tough matchup,” Izzo said.

But CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer doesn’t think seeds really matter and doesn’t put much stock in 10 seeds’ past success.

Packer, who will be part of the broadcast team for the Spartans’ first-round game with N.C. State, said he’s excited for what should be a good game between two teams and not two seeds.

“I don’t think that it matters once the ball is tossed which team is seeded what,”he said.

“I know the teams aren’t thinking about it. In fact, unless I’m calling a one versus 16 game, I don’t even care what the seeds are.”

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