SEC hoops schedule might go beyond 18 games

semerson@macon.comJanuary 25, 2012 

ATHENS - It's all but official now what was reported in this space back in September - the SEC will expand to an 18-game schedule for men's basketball next year.

But how that schedule will look, and future scheduling, remain up in the air.

In conversations with a few people around the league, including Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity before Tuesday's Georgia-Kentucky game, this is how it stands:

- Further expansion of the schedule to 19 games is a serious possibility. The thinking there would be to keep a schedule consistent with divisions: for instance, East teams playing each other twice, and the Western teams once.

- But the SEC is stil unlikely to go back to using divisions. It would only use the East-West setup for scheduling. Why not go back to divisions? McGarity said the old way hurt the "perception" of the SEC's teams when it came to the NCAA tournament selections. (The thinking is that finishing fifth in a good division isn't a fair indicator of a team's performance, nor is finishing first in a bad division.)

The other reason is seeding for the SEC tournament. The league went to one set of standings for this season so that teams from a weaker division wouldn't automatically receive byes to the SEC tournament. (And this year the top three teams are Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida. They're all likely to get byes, whereas in previous years one of them would have had to play a first-round game.)

It also helps the league from an RPI perspective to have two or three more games against league teams, rather than the Caniuses and Jackson States of the world.

- Financially, expanding the league schedule is a great thing for almost every team. They get to add at least one more marquee home game, and the SEC gets to go to ESPN and CBS with more conference games.

The exception is Kentucky, which can sell out Rupp Arena for almost every game. John Calipari has been pretty open that he doesn't like the schedule expansion, worrying it would mean sacrificing a game against North Carolina, Indiana or another marquee opponent.

But the vote in the room is 11-1 - or now 13-1.

When this will all be decided remains an open question. It could be put off until the annual league meetings in Destin, Fla., this summer. The SEC has approached this in much the same way as its football schedule: By first figuring out the plan for 2012, then resolving the future plan later.

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