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No Kentucky-Tennessee Hoops Game In Knoxville This Year… It Didn’t Have To Be That Way

nun-shameWhen the SEC expanded, there were bound to be some lost rivalries and some lost traditions.  But the best rivalries and traditions could have and should have been protected by the SEC presidents and athletic directors.  Instead, they went down the easiest road… and perhaps the SEC’s best basketball rivalry is now suffering.

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed yesterday that Kentucky will not be visiting Knoxville this year.  It will mark the first time since 1952-53 that UK hasn’t visited UT.  The two schools have met on the hardwood 216 times.  In the SEC, only Ole Miss and Mississippi State have played more often (247 games).

But not only have the two schools played on a regular basis, Tennessee has traditionally been Kentucky’s best in-conference test.  Vanderbilt has beaten UK 46 times in their series.  Alabama has 37 wins against the Cats; Florida has 34.  Tennessee has 67 wins — 20 more than any other school in the league — against Kentucky.  Granted, the Wildcats have a “slight” lead in the series with 149 wins of their own, but no one has frustrated Kentucky over the years like Tennessee.

Those are saying that this is just a by-product of expansion, are totally and completely wrong.

In January of 2012, we posted a plan for SEC basketball scheduling that would have involved an 18-game slate, a divisionless set-up, and a 4-1-8 rotation.  The four permanent opponents would be played twice each.  One rotating foe would also be played twice.  The remaining eight league teams would be played once each.

That plan would have protected many, many more rivalries than the SEC’s current 1-4-8 format.  Under the current league plan, only one series is protected as a yearly home-and-home matchup.  Four rotating opponents are also played twice.

In other words, the powers-that-be in the SEC got things completely, 100% backwards.  Under our system, many more rivalries would have been protected and new geographical-based rivalries created:

 

*  Four of Alabama’s five most-played series

*  Two of Arkansas’ most-played SEC series would have been protected along with two games each against Missouri and Texas A&M

*  Three of Auburn’s four most-played series

*  Three of Florida’s five most-played series

*  Georgia’s three most-played series

*  Kentucky would have had two most-played series saved as well as two games per year against Missouri

*  LSU would have had two most-played series protected as well as two games per year against Arkansas and Texas A&M

*  Mississippi State’s three most-played series

*  Ole Miss’ three most-played series

*  Four of South Carolina’s five most-played series

*  Four of Tennessee’s five most-played series

*  Texas A&M would have had two games against Missouri, Arkansas and LSU

*  Vanderbilt’s two most-played series

 

Classic rivalries in football (Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee) and in basketball (Tennessee-Kentucky, Florida-Georgia) are part of the SEC’s very DNA.  The stewards of the league must work as hard as possible to find a way to protect games with historical value.

In this case, very little work was required.  We’d given them the best blueprint available for a 14-team, 18-game scheduling format, but they chose to gone in the complete opposite direction.  When they did, we knew that a season would soon roll ’round when one or more of the SEC’s most-played basketball series were not scheduled for home-and-home matchups.  That season is upon us.

Somewhere Adolph Rupp and Ray Mears are rolling over in their graves.

Shame on Mike Slive and the SEC schedule-makers.  On this front, they have failed embarrassingly.

 


12 comments
HoustonVol
HoustonVol

I think this plan will backfire on the SEC long term. While it might spread the wealth (UK) around, it does avoid home and home series between to two most successful men's basketball programs in the league. UK has the most titles, but what school is number 2? Tennessee. I remember when I was on campus. This was during the Wade Houston years. When Kentucky came to town, they called TBA - Rupp South. They would easily bring 15k+ plus every year though the game should be a slaughter. I have a hunch that within a couple of years, you will see them back off the 1-4-8 scheduling. All of the re-allignment focus was on football, and few worried about basketball and the other sports. Especially once the SEC network is launched - you will start to see a lot more focus on basketball.

Seanbo
Seanbo

Does it have to be 18 games, why not 19.  I know there are not divisions in basketball but I would use the football divisions for my basketball scheduling.  Play home and home against the schools in your division and play the other division once.  It's really not that hard.  One year, the "East" plays 10 home and 9 away then the next year, the "West.

the_voice
the_voice

The definition of "better" varies from person to person. Let's face facts on two counts. 1) 14 league members is a hard number to work with for basketball scheduling. 2) There is no rivalry in SEC basketball that remotely approaches something like North Carolina v Duke, Kansas v Kansas State, or Michigan v Indiana. Fan base passion, history of play, geography, and historical competitiveness all are factors in whether two teams are rivals. Kentucky has no true SEC rival because they are the only SEC school to maintain excellence over the long haul, causing their fans to expect to win easily against SEC competition; and also Lexington is somewhat remote from most other SEC schools. Kentucky's rivals are Indiana and Louisville, not Tennessee.

Get the SEC to 16 teams and you can divide into 4 regions/divisions/pods. Play your group home and home and the other three groups once annually for a total of 18 games. Just please don't call your region/division/pod members "permanent rivals". They probably won't be.

sec_fan
sec_fan

Could be they wanted Kentucky open to play other Opponents. It is a huge draw even in opponents venues.

5LittlePiggies
5LittlePiggies

Does the league ask for outside assistance in matters like this, or do they only talk in-house for big decisions?  Seems like an outside consulting company, or even public input (such as your own), could have helped them make a better schedule.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@the_voice 

As someone who grew up on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, I can assure you that both Kentucky and Tennessee fans believe Kentucky has a true SEC rival in Tennessee.  As already plainly stated in the story above, no other school in history -- SEC or otherwise -- has come close to beating the Wildcats 67 times.  

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@sec_fan 

Our plan would have them playing other opponents.  But it would have protected tradition, too.

Both could have been accomplished.  In this particular issue, they chose to make Florida Kentucky's permanent opponent.  That's well and good for now, but 100 years of history suggests Kentucky-Tennessee is a better matchup than Kentucky-Florida.

It was a poor decision that blew up two of the league's oldest rivalries as home-and-home series: Kentucky-Tennessee and Florida-Georgia.

Thanks for reading the site,

John 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@5LittlePiggies 

They have an in-house panel cook up some schedules and then they allow the coaches and athletic directors to tweak them and choose them.  The presidents rubber-stamp them.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

dsnyderbama7
dsnyderbama7

@John at MrSEC @the_voice As someone growing up on the kentucky border you take b'ball more serious than most SEC'ers.  IMO @the_voice is right about there being no TRUE rivalries in SEC basketball.  TRUE Rivalry meaning any of the three mentioned in the comment or one like Cincy vs. Louisville or Cincy vs. Xavier.  Even though UT-UK mean a lot to some people, it doesn't mean very much to many people.  However, as a lukewarm NCAA bball fan, I will watch any of the TRUE rivalries listed in my comment.

My point:  The rivalries you are upset about losing are indeed rivalries but not intense enough to capture the SEC public's attention.   SO.....back to the drawing board to try and "create" better rivalries.  I think Kentucky-UF is a good choice since they have been the only viable programs nationally for the last 10-15 years.


dsnyderbama7
dsnyderbama7

@John at MrSEC @dsnyderbama7 @the_voice Slow down John, I'm not trying to raise your blood pressure.  As a lukewarm NCAA Basketball fan, I'm probably the type of fan the SEC needs to try to excite and therefore my opinion matters.  That's all I was trying to express (my opinion). Why so defensive? If increasing excitement and generating more interest in SEC hoops are goals of the league, then change is needed.  I don't think the 20K+ that watch the UT-UK game are gonna give up on basketball in the SEC.  It's the fans like me who want to see something different.  I watch more Big East, ACC, and Big Ten B-Ball than SEC right now.

the_voice
the_voice

@John at MrSEC @dsnyderbama7 @the_voiceJohn, I don't think dsnyderbama7 was trying to say no one cares about Tennessee v Kentucky. Tennessee fans probably care more about the Kentucky game than any other on their SEC schedule. I'm guessing that the same could be said for the majority of SEC fan bases. Kentucky draws well wherever they play on the road and they pack Rupp for any meaningful game. 216 games between the two over time is awesome, but Tennessee's 31% winning percentage in those games probably doesn't strike fear in the Kentucky fan base, except for those near Kentucky's southern border. Each of Tennessee's 67 wins have excited Tennessee fans, but so have wins against Kentucky for every other SEC team's fans.

I'm thrilled for your passion for the game. I'm also thrilled that other SEC teams fan's have an opportunity to enjoy defeating the Wildcats a little more often than your proposed schedule would allow.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@dsnyderbama7 @John at MrSEC @the_voice 

Got it.  Kentucky and Tennessee are among the national top 10 in attendance every year and 20,000+ pack Rupp Arena and Thompson-Boling Arena whenever the two teams meet... but no one really cares. 

Your admission that you're a "lukewarm NCAA bball fan" suggests that you might not be the best judge of which rivalries matter to the majority of Southeastern Conference or hoops fans.

Thanks for reading the site,

John 

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