March 4th, 2014 01:30 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Alabama, Bid Years, NCAA, SEC
– John Calipari, Kentucky basketball coach, June of 2011
“The perception of the league has been that if one division was playing well, the other was getting criticized. That can’t be pointed out anymore. We’re hoping this will have traction for us going forward.”
– Jeremy Foley, Florida athletic director, June of 2011
Back in the summer of 2011 the SEC was coming off a five-bid NCAA tourney. Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had all reached the dance. On Selection Sunday, 21-11 Alabama — 12-4 in the SEC — was shunned. The Crimson Tide had played in a weaker West Division. Obviously, then, the perception of playing in a weaker division had scuppered Bama’s tourney hopes. Doing away with those divisions would end eliminate that problem once and for all.
At least that was the thinking.
In reality, SEC basketball has only gotten worse since trashing divisional play in 2011-12, even with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.
Let’s take a look at the SEC’s history of NCAA bids from 1985 (when the tournament expanded to 64 teams) through 2011:
|6-Bid Years||5-Bid Years||4-Bid Years||3-Bid Years||2-Bid Years|
Now let’s look at those numbers another way including the years since divisional play was ditched…
2012: 4 (no divisions)
2013: 3 (no divisions)
Here in 2014, the league is struggling once again. The SEC will likely receive three bids, but four bids or even two bids (which hasn’t happened since 1979) are still outside possibilities.
The league has gone from averaging 5.6 bids per year (1997-2008) to just 3.8 bids over the past five seasons (2009-2013). The SEC’s basketball problem is larger than divisional play, folks. It’s a lack of basketball talent in the SEC footprint, lower-priced coaches, facilities that lag behind football, and so on.
Tossing out divisions in basketball hasn’t helped on the NCAA Tournament front. An argument could be made that the decision has actually hurt the SEC on its home front. Missouri and Texas A&M have quickly adapted to football life in the SEC, but the same can’t be said for basketball. If Missouri were in an SEC East Division in basketball, playing twice the same teams it faces in football each year, the Tigers’ might create rivalries more quickly. And if Texas A&M were battling the likes of Arkansas, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State twice each, it might generate more interest than Texas A&M versus Georgia or Texas A&M versus Tennessee.
That said, the SEC is currently right in step with the other major conferences from a scheduling format perspective. Only the Big South, Mid-American, and Ohio Valley Conferences have failed to dump divisional play. So be it.
But nixing the divisions sure hasn’t helped as much as the SEC’s ADs and coaches hoped it would back in the summer of 2011.
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