This past March, SEC basketball took another hit to its reputation when the NCAA selection committee decided to invite just three league members to its annual tourney. That’s three bids for a 14-team league.
With the SEC’s overall strength of schedule so poor last season — the league spent much of the year ranked seventh among conferences — it’s no wonder commissioner Mike Slive has decided to get the league office involved in non-conference scheduling, as he announced yesterday at the SEC meetings:
“In men’s basketball we talked about scheduling. Particularly non-conference scheduling… One of the things our athletic directors did in the most recent meeting was agree that all of our schools would submit their basketball non-conference schedules to the conference office for review, so that we can take a look at those, we can put the analytics to it, and help our institutions schedule in a way that is going to be helpful not only to them in terms of postseason but helpful to us (as a whole).”
Before anyone says the commissioner has no business telling Hometown U. how to put its schedule together, keep in mind that one of Slive’s main duties is to help the league’s 14 schools make as much money from athletics as possible. The more NCAA Tournament bids the conference receives, the more money it will make. So, yes, Slive and the SEC office have every right to step in and try to make sure that each school schedules wisely.
When it comes to RPI, strength of schedule and the other metrics used by the NCAA selection committee, a school isn’t just graded on its own opponents. The records of its opponents’ opponents are also factored in to those calculations. For that reason, even if a school at the bottom of the SEC is in a rebuilding mode, it should not be allowed to gorge upon cupcakes and creampuffs. Doing so will bring down that program’s RPI and SOS and, therefore, the RPI and SOS numbers for all of its conference partners… including those on the NCAA tourney bubble.
“Our non-conference strength of schedule last year was (ranked) 336. That’s unacceptable. That impacts every team in our league in a negative way. For example, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky got left out of the NCAA Tournament. They had decent RPIs. If my non-conference strength of schedule would have been 230 instead of 330, then their RPIs are in the 40s and now I think maybe two of the three of them get in.”
Kudos to Martin for admitting he spent too much time at the pastry shop while making out Carolina’s 2012-13 schedule. And kudos to the SEC for identifying a problem and working to fix it.
Earlier this month the SEC also announced that it had reached an agreement to begin an annual basketball “challenge” with the Big XII. That, too, should help in terms of RPI and strength of schedule.