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How The SEC Tourney Bracket Should Look

(This post has been updated to correct a rather ridiculous typo on the author’s part… changes noted below.)

I am a fan of the SEC championship game in football.  East versus West.  One game, two division champions, winner takes all.  That makes sense.

Too bad the SEC tournament is also set up in an East versus West fashion.  Because in a basketball tourney, it makes no sense.

Oh, I’d be good with the SEC’s current seeding plan (East versus West in every game, teams seeded by division, with the top two seeds from each division getting first round byes), if only a few teams earned their way into the tourney.  For example, if only eight teams made it in… then I would understand trying to place an even number of teams from each division in the tournament. 

But everyone gets a shot in the basketball tournament anyway.

The SEC’s current seeding plan would make sense to me if each team from the West didn’t play each team from the East during the regular season.  The tourney would be an opportunity to see matchups that hadn’t already been played.

But all of the teams in the West do play all of the teams in the East.

That’s why I believe it’s long past time the conference created a truly balanced tournament bracket.  That could be achieved by seeding the tournament #1 through #12 from the SEC’s best to the SEC’s worst.

In the current set-up, a weak division can throw off the competitive balance of the entire bracket (on paper).  Take the down year in the SEC West this season.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State — the fifth and sixth best teams in the league — will receive byes in this week’s tourney.  Their placement forces the league’s clear-cut third-best team (Tennessee) into the same side of the bracket with top-seeded Kentucky.

Name me a tournament where #1 plays #3 in the semi-finals.  That’s not fair to the #1 seed or the #3 seed.

Thanks to its location on a map, Arkansas will be rewarded with a #3 seed.  That means the Razorbacks will get to play the worst team in the East in a first round game with Georgia.  And what did they do to earn this honor?  They finished 7-9 in SEC play, the seventh best record in the league.

The two worst teams in the conference this season were LSU and Georgia.  LSU will face 11-5 Tennessee in the first round.  Georgia, as we said, will face 7-9 Arkansas.  Georgia’s game is whole heckuva lot easier than LSU’s.  Why such a big reward for the second-worst team int the league?

If the league were seeded from 1 through 12 instead, here’s how things would shake out:

1  Kentucky 14-2
2  Vanderbilt 12-4
3  Tennessee 11-5
4  Florida 9-7 (by virtue of head-to-head tiebreakers with MSU and UM)
5  Miss. State 9-7 (by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker with UM)
6  Ole Miss 9-7
7  Arkansas 7-9
8  S. Carolina 6-10 (by virtue of win vs UK tiebreaker with UA and AU)
9  Alabama 6-10 (by virtue of division record tiebreaker with AU)
10  Auburn 6-10
11  Georgia 5-11
12  LSU 2-14

If you create a balanced bracket based upon those correct seedings, you’d have a more competitive bracket than the actual one waiting to be played out in Nashville.  See for yourself:

#9 Alabama would play #8 South Carolina with the winner facing #1 Kentucky

#12 LSU would play #5 MSU with the winner facing #4 Florida

#10 Auburn would play # 7 Arkansas with the winner facing #2 Vanderbilt

#11 Georgia would play #6 Ole Miss with the winner facing #3 Tennessee

(I have changed second-round matchups to more correctly match standard tournament format.  I simply flip-flopped which games should have been matched with each team getting a bye.  When posting dozens of stories and links per day, I occasionally flub up in my rushed state to write long posts like this one.  This was one of those times.  The point has not changed… 1-12 is the way to go.  Sorry for any confusion!  And please email me if you ever think I’ve mistyped something.  Many thanks.)

The semi-finals — on paper — would feature the four best teams in the conference: Kentucky vs Florida and Vanderbilt vs Tennessee.

Under the current set-up, the SEC bracket has more to do with an atlas than it does actual wins and losses.  And that makes for a less competitive tournament. 

Especially in a season when either the East or West division is clearly inferior to its counterpart.



  1. [...] field for this week’s SEC tournament in Nashville is set… though I think there should be some tweaks made.Below you’ll see the full schedule for this week’s action.  All times are [...]

  2. [...] the entire story here. The actual tournament schedule is [...]

  3. [...] on the “it’s time to re-seed the SEC tournament” bandwagon.  Earlier this week we told you why and we showed you how we would re-seed the league’s bracket from 1 through 12 rather than by divisions.  Today, [...]

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