We all know at this point that Oklahoma and Texas are joining the SEC in the very near future. In adding two more teams to a 14 league scheduling changes were going to be required. So yesterday the SEC Announced that the conference presidents and chancellors agreed to scheduling changes for men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and softball.
We still haven’t seen what football plans to do, as they go back and forth on whether there should be 8 or 9 conference games, and whether there will be divisions or pods. One conference rival and rotating opponents, or something else. There are a lot of proposals floating around, so let’s focus on what’s been approved.
You all know me as a basketball guy, so lets start with what we know about the other programs and get to hoops.
Regular season: Soccer will continue to compete in a two-division format. Each season a team will play seven divisional opponents plus three cross-divisional opponents on a rotating basis, for a total of 10 conference games.
SEC Soccer Championship: 12 teams will compete in a single-elimination format, with the top four seeded teams receiving a first-round bye.
This is similar to how baseball works now. You need to qualify to make the post season tournament. Divisions mean you’re going to see certain opponents with regularity, so developing rivalries is easy. It’s a good setup.
Regular season: Each team will play a single round robin against all other teams in the conference, consistent with the current format.
SEC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships: All teams will compete in a single elimination format with the top four seeded teams receiving a bye through the first two rounds of the tournament.
Nothing shocking here.
Regular season: Each season a team will play a three-game series against eight rotating opponents, for a total of 24 conference games.
SEC Softball Tournament: All teams will compete in a single-elimination format, consistent with the current format but with two additional games.
I’ll let others comment on this, but I’m not sure I love the lack of a rivalry here.
Finally, Hoops. Let’s start with women:
Regular season: Each season a team will play one rotating opponent home and away, plus the 14 remaining teams in single contests either home or away, for a total of 16 conference games.
SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament: All 16 teams will compete in a single-elimination format, consistent with the current format but with two additional games. The top four seeded teams will continue to receive a bye through the first two rounds of the tournament.
Just one regular rivalry, and rotating 16 game schedule does leave a little to be desired. It keeps in tact a more robust non-conference slate. And the Conference is already a fairly brutal league to compete in. But it’s still a little disappointing to be limited to just one permanent rivalry. Especially with former Big 12 opponents moving into the league.
Now to the men:
Regular season: Each season a team will play two permanent opponents home and away, one rotating opponent home and away, plus the 12 remaining teams in single contests either home or away, for a total of 18 conference games.
SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament: All 16 teams will compete in a single-elimination format, consistent with the current format but with two additional games. The top four seeded teams will continue to receive a bye through the first two rounds of the tournament.
An unbalanced schedule isn’t going to go away as long as these super leagues exist. When you reach 14 and now 16 teams the schedule will have to be unbalanced. The current setup is 3 permanent rivals, 2 rotating home and home opponents, and everyone else rotating home and away. So the league is dropping one permanent rivalry, and only adding one rotating home and home while increasing the league schedule to 18 games.
The conference tournament is basically unchanged with just a few more teams playing on the opening day (which is rumored to be moving to Tuesday from Wednesday). So the day that Missouri seems to be perpetually stuck in just expanded. So yay, more friends!
But getting into the Permanent Rival business, this is where I find a lot of intrigue. Currently Mizzou has Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss as their permanent rival. Immediately after Mizzou here are the permanent rivals for those teams:
- Ole Miss: Mississippi State, Auburn, Missouri
- Texas A&M: LSU, Arkansas, Missouri
- Arkansas: Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU
If I were doing this, I’d work up four 4 team pods, since I think it’s easier to build up the regional rivalries. 3 home and home pod rivalries equals 6 games. Playing everyone else is 18 conference games. I personally like the idea of having more consistency in who you play. Two rivals is just so few.
Obviously I think Missouri gets paired up against Arkansas as one of the primary rivalries. But who is the other? The most logical matches are any of the former Big 12 teams, Texas, Texas A&M or Oklahoma. My preference would be OU, with the old school Big 8 ties. Even though it’s been almost 30 years since the Big 8 mattered, the connection still resonates and could be more quickly rekindled.
Proximity would include Ole Miss. Vanderbilt, and maybe Kentucky. If you’re looking regionally Texas A&M probably pulls Texas and LSU. Texas probably pulls Oklahoma and if there are no objections from College Station having Texas and A&M be permanent makes all the sense in the world. Those matchups probably pull Texas and A&M out of the bidding for a matchup against Mizzou.
The problem is the original SEC schools are probably going to fight for their traditional rivalries.
Ole Miss versus Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn, Georgia and Florida. There are regional rivalries which make sense too, Florida and South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, even Arkansas and Oklahoma.
That’s the task now. Pick just two permanent rivals around the league.
Here’s my stab:
- Alabama: Auburn, Miss State
- Arkansas: Missouri, LSU
- Auburn: Alabama, Ole Miss
- Florida: Georgia, South Carolina
- Georgia: Florida, South Carolina
- Kentucky: Tennessee, Vanderbilt
- LSU: Texas A&M, Arkansas
- Miss State: Ole Miss, Alabama
- Missouri: Arkansas, Oklahoma
- Oklahoma: Texas, Missouri
- Ole Miss: Miss State, Auburn
- South Carolina: Florida, Georgia
- Tennessee: Vanderbilt, Kentucky
- Texas: Oklahoma, Texas A&M
- Texas A&M: LSU, Texas
- Vanderbilt: Tennessee, Kentucky
Let me know your thoughts below.