June 6, 2010

Should the SEC have scrapped its divisions?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a current topic in the sport.

Today's question: After some discussion, the SEC decided to stick with its current format of breaking the teams into divisions and giving the top two finishers in each division a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Your thoughts?

David Fox's answer:
Here's a fact showing that the SEC's current system doesn't work: Mississippi State was the top seed in the West, earned a bye, beat two NCAA-bound teams, gave a No. 1 seed a fight in the final and still missed the NCAA tournament. I understand breaking up the conference into divisions for scheduling and travel purposes, but using the divisions to seed the conference tournament is preposterous. Tennessee and Florida were the third- and fourth-best teams in the league. For that, they got to watch Mississippi State and Ole Miss get first-round byes in the league tournament. You could say the SEC's seeding process didn't affect the league since the Volunteers and Gators reached the NCAA tournament anyway and Mississippi State stayed home. That's true, but I still wonder how many NCAA bids have been affected by this rule.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think the SEC should've done what the other 12-team Big Six leagues do: Get rid of the divisions and seed the teams 1-12 for the league tournament. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC have divisions for football, but the SEC is the only one that carries those divisions over to basketball. I don't think it works well for basketball; it makes scheduling easier, but that's it.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't mind having the divisional format because it at least makes scheduling easier. As it is, you play each divisional opponent twice and each of the teams from the opposite division once. The scheduling process would have become more complicated without the divisional format. Of course, it would help matters if the SEC had more balance. Last season, the Eastern Division was far more competitive than the Western Division. Tennessee was stuck playing a first-round game because it finished third in the East. Mississippi State and Ole Miss weren't as good as Tennessee, but they got first-round byes because they were the top two teams in the West. But it would have been a bit presumptuous to scrap the divisional format just because of what happened in one particular season. The cyclical nature of these things should allow the West to catch up to the East in due time.


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