The SEC is holding its annual meetings this week and one topic on the agenda is the Men’s Basketball Season and Tournament. Currently, the SEC has two divisions (East and West) each containing six teams. In the SEC Tournament, the top two teams from each division receive first round byes, and while it may seem like the best way to seed the tournament is by ranking the divisions one through six, that is not necessarily most conducive to competition. This past year, the top two teams in the West, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, both were 9-7 in conference play. Their 9-7 mark was worse than Tennessee‘s 11-5 record in conference play, but since Tennessee resides in the East with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, they had to play in the first round while Ole Miss and Mississippi State did not.
The fact that Tennessee did not get a bye indicates the flaws in the tournament seeding. Tennessee had a great season and should be rewarded with a bye, which would enable them to only play three games consecutively as opposed to four. For those that don’t think having a bye is a big deal, they are mistaken. These players typically go two to three days between games in season, so going from that format to playing top-level competition on successive days can be grueling, and an extra day of rest can help a team immensely. The SEC should rectify this problem by giving the top four teams in all of the conference byes in the first round, and seeding the tournament 1 through 12.
While changes in the tournament are needed, the SEC should still keep its divisions intact for the regular season. Every SEC team plays the other five teams in its division twice, while they play the teams from the other division just once. Playing teams in your division at home and on the road every year helps build and sustain rivalries that are great for the league. For example, Vanderbilt has rivalries with Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky in the East, while Ole Miss has rivalries with Mississippi State and Arkansas in the West. These divisional match-ups are the ones that most excite fans, so changing the current scheduling of two games for in-division opponents and one game against outside-division opponents remains the best option for the league going forward.
What do you think?
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