SDS Mailbag: SEC hoops hot seats, best CFB stadium to visit and double-digit seeds to the Final Four
The new schedule for the NCAA Tournament is throwing me off, big time. Last weekend, I thought it was Sunday when Michigan and LSU were playing, and Alabama and Maryland were squaring off.
But it was Monday. Then, yesterday (Thursday), I was eager to see who was playing in that day’s Sweet 16 games, only to remember that the games weren’t starting again until Saturday.
Hopefully, we can go back to a normal March Madness schedule in 2022. I’ll never get used to this new system.
Anyway, here are your questions for this week’s Mailbag:
It seems unlikely that any SEC men’s basketball coaches will be fired this offseason. Who enters the 2021-22 season on the hottest seat?
I agree with you that no one will likely be fired this offseason. As for who enters next year on the hottest seat, well, that’s a tricky question.
I think 5 coaches are entering make-or-break years in 2021-22 — Mizzou’s Cuonzo Martin, South Carolina’s Frank Martin, Florida’s Mike White, Mississippi State’s Ben Howland and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes.
Wait, Rick Barnes, really? I’m assuming that’s the question you had when you saw his name included. Yes, Rick Barnes, really.
The Vols have been through 4 ADs since he was hired in 2015 (a shocking stat, but welcome to life on Rocky Top), so no one in the current administration has any loyalty to him. He ruffled some feathers a couple of years ago when he flirted with the UCLA job. And this year’s team vastly underperformed expectations.
He still recruits at a high level and there will be plenty of talent on the 2021-22 squad, but if that team also fails to live up to the preseason hype, Barnes’ seat could heat up in a hurry.
Martin’s situation is interesting. One group of Mizzou fans thinks Martin should be fired immediately. Another group loves him so much and thinks he should stay forever. Obviously, the situation is somewhere in the middle. Mizzou figures to lose a lot of talent this offseason, and star guard Xavier Pinson recently entered the NCAA transfer portal. If Martin can’t get the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament in 2022, I think his days in Columbia could be numbered.
But neither of those guys enter 2021-22 on the hottest seat in the SEC. That belongs to White at Florida. White had a golden opportunity to coach his way off the hot seat by advancing to the Sweet 16. But that golden opportunity went up in flames at the hands (wings?) of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.
Losing to a 15-seed is never good for job security. And White’s teams have struggled to build on any sort of positive momentum over the past couple of years. Florida fans care a lot about their basketball team, so if White can’t overcome the loss of Tre Mann next season, it could be his last in Gainesville.
Which remaining double-digit seed has the best chance to make it to the Final Four?
There are 4 double-digit seeds remaining in this year’s tournament — 11-seed UCLA, 11-seed Syracuse, 12-seed Oregon State and, of course, 15-seed Oral Roberts. My answer is going to be Syracuse.
There are a couple of reasons for that. First, the Orange play Houston on Saturday. I thought heading into the tournament that the Cougars were a bit overseeded. I would have put them on the 3-seed line and bumped Arkansas up to the 2-seed line.
If the Orange manage to make it past Houston, they’ll get to play either Loyola-Chicago or Oregon State. Honestly, at this point, I think Loyola-Chicago is the favorite to get out of the Midwest region and make it to the Final Four. But, the Orange have Jim Boeheim as their coach, and I’m learning to never count him out in March.
I predict the Orange roll past the Cougars on Saturday and then eke out a win in a low-scoring contest against Loyola-Chicago to advance to the Final Four. Meanwhile, I think our 2 SEC squads, Alabama and Arkansas, end UCLA and Oral Roberts’ seasons, respectively.
Assuming every stadium across the country is allowed to have fans and be at full capacity in 2021, which college football stadium (one you’ve never been to) would you most want to visit?
I’m assuming pregame tailgating is a part of this endeavor, too, right? If that’s the case, I’d love to go see an Ole Miss game. Pregaming in The Grove sounds like a bucket-list item and I think the Rebels are going to be entertaining this year with Lane Kiffin at the helm and QB Matt Corral and other key players coming back.
If we’re talking non-SEC stadiums, though, I’d love to go see a game at the Rose Bowl. My top choice would be to watch the actual Rose Bowl game, of course, but just going to see UCLA play there wouldn’t be that bad, either.
I’d want it to be an evening game, though, so I could take in the iconic Rose Bowl sunset while watching a Pac-12 game with no real implications on a national scale. (Sorry, had to throw that burn in there.)
Which team remaining in the field do you least want to see win the title? Kansas is out, so you don’t have an easy answer there.
I actually don’t have a grudge against any of the remaining teams. But, that’s not interesting, so I have to come up with an actual response here.
I’m going to go with Michigan. After 8 of the 9 Big Ten teams in the tournament failed to reach the Sweet 16, I don’t want the B1G to have any sort of bragging rights if the Wolverines go on to win it all.
So, I hope Michigan doesn’t bail out the rest of the conference after an awful showing at a tournament held entirely in Indiana. But, I have nothing against Juwan Howard. He seems like a solid coach.
My backup answer would be Syracuse. Jim Boeheim has gotten a little too grumpy in his old age for my liking.
Have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.