As all of you are aware, the SEC held their Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida this week. While the football scheduling conversation finally came to a bit of a pause, future basketball scheduling was one of the prime issues for the 14 member institutions.
Since Texas A&M and Missouri joined the SEC, the conference has followed a schedule where each school would play one permanent rival twice a year, and the other 12 schools in the conference would rotate whether or not they played twice in one season or only once. For example: Alabama played Auburn (permanent rival) home and away this year, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, and Ole Miss each home and away, and the remaining 8 teams once, four at home and four on the road. This model has led to many fan bases being upset about only playing certain teams once a year except for every third year, as the 12 team rotation held. For Alabama, that meant traditional rivals like Tennessee and Mississippi State would only square off with the Crimson Tide once two out of every three years.
However, the SEC schools came to an agreement to tweak that schedule a bit. While each team in the league will still play 18 conference games, there will now be three permanent rivals that each team plays twice a year. Each team's current permanent rival will be one of the three, and it has yet to be determined which three teams each school will face twice on a yearly basis. So the new schedule will work like this: Alabama will play three teams home and away every year for a total of six games. Then the remaining 10 SEC opponents will have 12 remaining games to be divvied up. This will probably lead to a five year rotation where Alabama will face two of the remaining ten teams twice, and the rest of them once.
To lay this out more simply:
- 6 permanent rival games (Auburn and let's say Tennessee and Mississippi State twice each)
- 4 rotation games (Let's say LSU and Ole Miss twice each for the current year)
- 8 games against teams not in the current year's rotation (The rest of the SEC teams once each, four at home, four away)
This will help develop and/or rekindle basketball rivalries in the SEC, which is a good thing for the league and it's basketball product.
The next big piece of news comes in the form of future host sites for the SEC Basketball Tournament. Mike Slive announced that the destination for the tournament for the next eleven years has been laid out. From 2015-2025 the SEC Basketball Tournament will be held in Nashville every year save 2018 and 2022. In 2018 the tournament will be held in St. Louis, MO, undoubtedly as a way to try and grow the SEC brand into a new market recently acquired by adding Mizzou. In 2022, the SEC Tournament will return to Tampa for the first time since 2009. This move has me pretty baffled. The 2009 SEC Tournament in Tampa was one of the worst attended tournaments in the history of the conference. Sure the recession didn't exactly help out, but when basketball support is at a pretty low point across the league, it doesn't really make sense to put the premier event in a place that only one school (Florida) is relatively close to. Hell, they are moving it further away from Kentucky, which is the exact opposite of what the league should be doing if they are trying to draw more fans. At least the St. Louis move will still bring in tons of Big Blue Nation.
More details on the SEC Network's coverage of basketball will be covered in the months to come. The SEC also has decided to experiment with a 30 second shot clock in some exhibition games, which is a contrast to the current 35 second shot clock. If that works out favorably (i.e. leads to more scoring and less passing around the three-point arc), expect that possible change to gain some real legs.