Skip to content

Men’s basketball progams told to quickly lay off cupcakes

Men’s basketball progams told to quickly lay off cupcakes

Posted: Friday, May 29, 2009 7:48 pm

DESTIN, Fla. (AP) — Southeastern Conference men’s basketball teams were nearly absent from the NCAA Tournament and commissioner Mike Slive wants to see tougher non-conference schedules — and soon.
“November and December isn’t exhibition season,” Slive said at the SEC’s annual business meetings in Destin.
The SEC had at least six teams in the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last 10 years. Seven teams won at least 21 games in 2008-09 but just three made the NCAA Tournament. Two lost in the first round followed by the other in the second.
Slive recently ended his term as chairman of the NCAA Tournament selection committee where he got an up-close look at the decision-making and how important the entire season is to a postseason berth.
“Playing a strong non-conference schedule gives the selection committee a chance to see how teams would compete against teams in the NCAA field, because many of those teams usually are in the field. There’s a perception of who you play, how you play and where you play.”
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said the SEC has endured “the perfect storm” with new coaches in the last few years combined with a lot of youth last season.
The weak nonconference schedule cannot be overlooked.
According to RPI expert Jerry Palm, 55.3 percent of the SEC’s non-conference wins this past season (68-of-123) came against teams with an RPI of 201 or worse.
 That included a 54-0 record against teams with an RPI of 251 or worse.
The lone standout was Tennessee with the third toughest schedule in the nation, according to Palm. The Vols were seeded No. 9 after a loss in the SEC Tournament finals to Mississippi State.
Still, Pearl said the seeding didn’t fit his strength of schedule.
“We just want the selection committee to remain consistent from year-to-year with its criteria. Yet the one thing we can do is schedule a bit tougher in non-conference, but I don’t think we’re that far off,” Pearl said.
Coaches sounded reluctant after listening to Slive.
“We don’t think anything in basketball is broke,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, chairman of the SEC basketball coaches. “Our league year in and year out is one of the best in the country. But we know when Kentucky and Florida have to be good (both advanced to the NIT quarterfinals this past season).
“So when those two teams aren’t as good, there’s a perception that this league is not as good. We’re not going to change a whole lot of things we are doing, because history says we’re not supposed to.”
Expect athletic directors to be as involved in basketball scheduling as in football.
“You’ll start to see that happen more,” Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said. “I think you need to make your non-conference games more attractive for your season ticket base. Also, some schools make sense for us to schedule. The Big 12 and ACC have teams that are easy for us to get to, and it is easy for those teams to come to us.”
Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said some non-conference schedules don’t always play out as intended.
“The reality is that when you sometimes schedule games the opponent is supposed to be better than they actually are, maybe that team has a bunch of injuries like we did last year,” Kennedy said. “But our coaches all need to keep in mind scheduling games that prepare you for the reality of SEC play.”
Florida coach Billy Donovan guided the Gators to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007 and said he understands Slive’s edict.
But Donovan, who admitted last season’s non-conference schedule was weak, said he tries to schedule to the experience level of his upcoming team.
“You want to be some what mentally fresh when you get to the NCAA Tournament, and I think people forget that. You don’t want to be a one-and-out-drained team going into the tournament and I’ve had worn-out teams like that,” Donovan said.
Slive hears all the opinions.
He still expects non-conference schedules to improve, especially with increased TV exposure from new ESPN contracts that calls for six non-conference games to be televised, as well as three conference games per week.
“This is a national basketball conference, and we want teams to play national schedules, playing good teams home and away,” Slive said.


Leave a Comment