Missouri and Texas A&M were moves driven by two things — money and football. Academics played a role (even if you’re one of the ones who doesn’t believe that). So did location, television markets, cable households, and geographic footprints.
But ask an SEC basketball coach and you’ll quickly learn that the biggest short-term positive of adding the Tigers and Aggies could come on the hardwood.
Here’s what a number of SEC coaches said about the new and improved SEC during yesterday’s summer conference call with the media…
Alabama’s Anthony Grant: “We’re excited about the season. I think if you took a poll of the coaches, they’d say there is potential for our league to have a banner year.”
Kentucky’s John Calipari: “You’re talking two NCAA Tournament teams (entering the league). I think seven teams in our league… are going to be in the NCAA Tournament. And I think that’ll be from here on in.”
South Carolina’s Frank Martin (on Missouri and Texas A&M): “From a basketball standpoint, they bring two tremendous programs that have tremendous homecourt advantages. Those two buildings are just a whole lot of fun to be in… They’re going to add tremendous quality to the conference.”
Auburn’s Tony Barbee: “It’s as strong as any conference in the country. This could be a banner year, maybe the best ever in the SEC. We’re looking at getting possibly six, seven, maybe eight teams in the tournament — that’s how strong all the coaches feel the conference will be.”
For the record, the SEC had just four teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament field. If the league could start routinely getting six squads into the dance it would mean more cash for the coffers, more overall exposure for the league, and — perhaps most importantly — more credibility for the hoops played down south. With greater respect and credibility, even greater numbers of tourney bids should follow.