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How Next Year’s 14-Team SEC Bracket Should Look

There’s been no shortage of debate over how the Southeastern Conference should rearrange its schedule once Missouri and Texas A&M are welcomed into the fold this summer. 

We believe:

* A divisionless, tradition-based approach should be taken in basketball…

* A divisionless, tradition-based approach should be taken in football as well (if the NCAA will allow it)…

* But only if the SEC remains too fearful of going to a 9-game football schedule which would, in fact, be the best possible scenario for fans. (Would you rather fork over $70 to see another SEC game or pay 70 bucks to see Elon come to town?)

Since we’ve got the schedules all figured out — and we’re the only site that seems to be paying very much attention to history and tradition in all such talk — we thought we’d tackle the issue of next season’s 14-team basketball tournament bracket as well.

In our view, the simplest means of adjusting the format would be to add a pair of “play-in” games and stretch the tournament back to Wednesday rather than its traditional Thursday start date.

The current format would remain unchanged other than the two added games on Day One.  The top four teams in the league would receive byes and need only win three games to capture the crown (as is currently the case).  The six teams in the middle of the standings board would have to win four games to grab the title.  And the bottom four teams in the league would be forced to meet in the aforementioned play-in games… forcing them to need five wins in five days to grab the SEC tourney title.

Below you’ll see that we’ve used standard seeding procedure.  So please don’t fire over the emails stating that Team 14 should play Team 1, etc.

Also, just for the sake of example, we’ve used this year’s RPI to “seed” our 14-team bracket.


Game One / “Play-In Game” 1:00pm ET
14 seed (S. Carolina) vs 11 seed (Georgia)
Winner faces 6 seed (Miss. State)

Game Two / “Play-In Game” 3:30:pm ET
13 seed (Texas A&M) vs 12 seed (Auburn)
Winner faces 5 seed (Alabama)


Game Three / 1:00pm ET
6 seed (Miss State) vs Winner of 14 vs 11 (S. Carolina/Georgia)
Winner faces 3 seed (Florida)

Game Four / 3:30pm ET
7 seed (LSU) vs 10 seed (Tennessee)
Winner faces 2 seed (Missouri)

Game Five / 7:30pm ET
8 seed (Ole Miss) vs 9 seed (Arkansas)
Winner faces 1 seed (Kentucky)

Game Six / 10:00pm ET
5 seed (Alabama) vs Winner of 13 vs 12 (Texas A&M/Auburn)
Winner faces 4 seed (Vanderbilt)


Game Seven / 1:00pm ET
3 seed Florida vs Winner of Game Three (Miss. State/S. Carolina, Georgia)

Game Eight / 3:30pm ET
2 seed Missouri vs Winner of Game Four (LSU/Tennessee)

Game Nine / 7:30pm ET
1 seed Kentucky vs Winner of Game Five (Ole Miss/Arkansas)

Game Ten / 10:00pm ET
4 seed Vanderbilt vs Winner of Game Six (Alabama/Texas A&M/Auburn)

The semifinals and final break down normally from there.

The above format would:

* Create as few radical changes as possible
* Simply add two games to the current tournament schedule
* Continue to reward the best teams with byes

The Big East’s 16-team format has often been criticized for providing “double-byes” to the top four teams in that league.  The view being that early-starting teams can get on a roll while the conference’s top teams sit on their duffs and wait for two days to get going.

In our scenario, the third- and fourth-place teams would be the only two teams that might be forced to meet such “on a roll” type teams.  The #1 and #2 seeds would face the winners of normal first-round games, thus protecting them from having to play their first games against teams playing their third games.

Some of you would probably favor a bracket that would provide byes only to the top two teams in the league.  While possible, this would require the first round of play to be broken up over two days.  For example, there would be six Round One games (try fitting those into one day) rather than four.  That’s messy and it would give too many teams an advantage in terms of rest.

No system is perfect and there’s no bracket formula that will gain universal approval.  But the above format is — in our view — the simplest and fairest bracket scenario available when making sure that all 14 schools take part.

Here’s another look in traditional form:

14 USC
11 UGA
  6 MSU
    3 UF
  7 LSU
   VS Winner
  10 UT
    2 MU
  8 UM
     VS  Champion
  9 ARK
    1 UK
13 TAM
12 AUB
 VS Winner
  5 ALA
    4 VU


Eric B
Eric B

You could give the bye to the top 2 teams, and then have number 3 and number 4 play their first round games on Wednesday, and then they get Thursday off if they win, while the rest of the first round goes on Thursday.  Then on Friday, 3 and 4 come in on a days rest while the rest of the teams come in on no rest.


If you used a second venue for games you could play six games on the first day and keep a four day tournament like it is now.


For example, in Atlanta, Georgia Tech or Georgia State could be the second court for games on the first day. Vanderbilt could be the second court for a tournament in Nashville. I'm sure you can find a second court for two or three games in any other big city.


I think other schools would agree to schedule Kentucky games for the bigger arena so there wouldn't be any seating problems.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



I don't think the SEC would want to stage an event at two venues.


Thanks for reading,



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