SEC mulling length of league schedule in hoops

Published: Monday, June 27, 2011 at 9:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 27, 2011 at 9:52 p.m.

Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Stansbury wasn't in favor of the Southeastern Conference's decision to drop the East and West divisions.

But with the league going to a one-division, 12-team format, Stansbury doesn't think it's fair to keep a 16-game schedule.

“The only way to make it a true champion is to play everyone twice,” Stansbury said during Monday's SEC coaches summer teleconference.

Next season, the SEC will play a 16-game men's basketball schedule. Teams from the former East and West divisions will play each other twice like in previous seasons.

A round-robin schedule will be discussed when a committee of coaches and athletic directors meet in December to discuss SEC scheduling going forward. But playing 22 league games in a season could create problems for league teams trying to improve their non-conference schedules.

LSU coach Trent Johnson said playing a round-robin, 18-game schedule worked well when he coached in the Pac 10 at Stanford.

“I'm in favor of everyone in the league playing each other twice,” Johnson said. “But I don't know how feasible it is with 12 teams.”

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who will serve on the committee to discuss scheduling, said he doesn't know whether a 22-game league schedule will gain much support.

“Certainly 18 seems like a number that may be logical,” Stallings said. “It's the number that if we went to it would obviously require some scheduling alterations.”

Stallings said he brought up the idea of playing 22 league games during the SEC spring meetings in Destin.

“It's something to think about,” Stallings said. “We feel like we've been drug through Armageddon at 16, you can imagine how you feel after 22. So like I said I don't think that one will get a lot of traction, but I thought it was at least worth bringing up and discussing.”

An 18-game schedule could create some griping due to its imbalance. Stallings said a scheduling model for 18 games hasn't been discussed yet. The most likely format would result in seven round-robin matchups and four single games.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he doesn't think the SEC would approve a 22-game schedule.

“There are very few leagues that do that and there's a reason for that,” Calipari said.

Calipari said league teams need to continue to focus on strengthening their non-conference schedules.

“Leagues that have gotten tons of teams in the NCAA Tournament have figured out it's about your non-conference strength of schedule and your non-conference RPI,” Calipari said. “In other words, play the best teams that you can play, and still win.”

SEC commissioner Mike Slive is reportedly in favor of an 18-game schedule. But Stallings was reluctant to talk about his personal feelings on whether an 18 or 22-game schedule would work best.

“Whatever we decide is what has to be best for our league going forward,” Stallings said. “Not what's best for Vanderbilt, what's best for Kentucky or what's best for Florida. That's what we'll try to do.”

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