SEC 18-game hoops schedule may hurt Vandy

(VU Photo)

Earlier this month the SEC announced a new 18-game conference schedule format for men's basketball. Divisions went away last season and now we'll see some historic annual home-and-home rivalries go away too.

No offense to Missouri and Texas A&M (welcome aboard guys), but the new SEC 18-game schedule looks like it may not benefit Vanderbilt basketball at all. Of first notice to Vanderbilt fans will be the reduction of games with rival Kentucky from the usual 2-game, home-and-home series which we've had for decades, to just one game per season with an occasional home-and-home season on a rotating basis. It's only right that the league's two basketball schools play twice a season. That's the way it's been since the 1947-48 season. Both Adolph Rupp and Roy Skinner would probably be outraged to hear of this setup. If anything, playing Kentucky twice a season has been a recruiting tool for Vanderbilt. Think of all the great players Vanderbilt has had over the years from Kentucky. It never failed that UK would snub a great home-state player and that kid would end up at Vanderbilt drooling for his two shots at the Wildcats every year.

The Kentucky rivalry also benefitted Vanderbilt attendance wise. It provided a marquee opponent on the Commodore home schedule which added value to a season ticket. From now on only about half the Commodore season schedules will see an appearance at Memorial Gym by the Cats.

SEC Associate Commissioner Mark Whitworth said of the new schedule format that it would "strengthen" everyone in the league's strength of schedule. As far as Vanderbilt concerned, that's hogwash. I believe that Vanderbilt's strength of schedule will be weakened by the loss of one game per season with the both Kentucky and Florida for that matter. Think about it, last season if you took away one each of the Florida and Kentucky games and added two more games with SEC West pansies, do you think that would have strengthened Vanderbilt's schedule? I think not.

The argument that playing 18 conference games will strengthen the league's RPI is also rubbish. If that's the case, why don't they do this in football? Or better yet, why not play a 26 game round robin? that's the fairest way to do things in my book but it probably would not be a good idea.

The SEC said in its release that this was the first time ever that the teams would play an 18-game schedule. That is also false. The SEC had an 18-game round robin schedule up until Arkansas and South Carolina joined the league in the early 90s. That actually was the most equitable setup they've ever had for the league. Member schools played each other two times, once at home and once on the road.

Getting back to the thought that an 18-game season will help more teams get to the NCAA by improving conference member's RPIs. I believe that is wrong. Teams now have less flexibility in the scheduling. A team that's lost four starters will be more hard pressed to schedule two more cupcake opponents to make up for the two extra conference games. Meanwhile, a team with five starters back might be less inclined to schedule more quality opponents because of the more rigorous SEC slate. This means the league gets less big time matchups with formidable opponents which likely means less national television appearances and exposure in the pre-conference portion of the schedule. How will that help?

In 2009 the SEC had only three teams make the NCAA field of 64. That year the conference did poorly overall in out of conference games. Now we are going to take away two opportunities to beat quality non-conference opponents and we think it's going to strengthen the league?

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