Tigers a legitimate invitee to tourney

Well now, Auburn’s showing in the NCAA basketball tournament looks much better after what happened over the weekend.

For evidence, consider that Syracuse is one of the survivors to make it to the Final Four, kicking off this Saturday in New Orleans.

The Orange Men, playing close to home, defeated Auburn by only one point, 79-78, in the Round of 16 and then stomped No. 1 seeded Oklahoma in the East Region 63-47 to advance to the Crescent City where they will meet another No. 1 seed, Texas, in the semifinal round.

If one believes in comparative scores, which can be mighty deceptive, that means that the Tigers from Auburn were a much better team than Oklahoma and, with the right bounce here and there against Syracuse, could be in the Final Four.

Playing what-might-have-been is fun but doesn’t mean a lot.

What it does mean, though, is that Auburn was a legitimate invitee to the tournament, despite those who opined otherwise.

Auburn’s loss to Syracuse and then No. 1 Kentucky’s poor showing against Marquette in the Elite Eight left the Southeastern Conference high-and-dry, despite sending six teams to the tournament. Alabama, Louisiana State and Mississippi State didn’t get past one game and Michigan State decimated No. 2 Florida in the second round.

All of which means that if the SEC was the nation’s best conference, as claimed by some, the proof wasn’t there in the tournament.

If anyone claims to have done well in office pools so far, it was a matter of luck, considering all the upsets and surprises leading toward next Monday night’s title game.

Texas is the only No. 1 seed left, with Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma eliminated, but the selection committee wasn’t too far off, considering that Kansas and Marquette, which meet Saturday, was seeded No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, and that Syracuse, which faces Texas, was No. 3.

Realizing that predictions are iffy, my picks are for Kansas and Texas to play for the title, and for Kansas to win it all.

Changing tacks, Alabama’s football team, under a new coaching regime, won its spring game, against itself, and Auburn will do the same.

The Tide coaches stacked the deck for the A-Day game, putting first-teamers on the same side, on offense and defense, and leaving the poor subs as fodder. The 47-0 victory was predictable.

It is difficult to judge teams by spring games, so it’s a matter of waiting until they meet real competition during the season before making any definitive judgments.

Brodie Croyle did look good passing, Shaud Williams ran well and the No. 1 defense, with the shutout, obviously was primed. None of this will matter unless it can be translated well in the fall against teams such as Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. E-mail: hharwell@bellsouth.net