With the SEC managing to earn just three bids to this past season’s NCAA tournament, the strength of the conference’s basketball product was one of the items discussed at SEC spring meetings in Florida earlier this week. Some alterations were made, such as mandating that teams put together non-conference schedules with an average opponent RPI no lower than 175 (that will be raised to 150 in the future), but that wasn’t what grabbed the attention of the masses.
What did was Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s suggestion that the SEC move its conference tournament from March to November. As one would expect, the reactions within the meeting room were swift and in opposition to Calipari’s suggestion. But here’s the thing: the “suggestion” was more about the impact (or lack thereof) of SEC tournament results on NCAA tournament selections and seeding than it was actually moving the event.
Back in March Calipari expressed his surprise over the fact that Kentucky, winners of the SEC tournament, was given a four-seed while Texas A&M (the team they beat in the title game) received a three. A team’s overall résumé is of higher priority than late-season results when it comes to the selection process, but one can see why a coach would essentially question just how much of an impact winning a conference tournament can have on their placement within the NCAA tournament bracket.
There’s no way that the SEC would move its conference tournament to November, and Calipari knows that. But here’s a move that the league should consider: setting up the schedule so that the SEC tournament concludes on Saturday (the day before Selection Sunday) as opposed to Selection Sunday itself.
Currently the SEC is one of five conferences that plays its tournament final on Selection Sunday, with the American, Atlantic 10, Big Ten and Sun Belt being the others. The main reason for this is to ensure that your conference gets to play the game that determines its automatic bid recipient on national television, giving the conference a platform that won’t have much in the way of competition for viewers.
But there’s also the argument that playing this close to the announcement of the NCAA tournament field can hurt a conference when it comes to seeding and team selection. The selection committee does have its contingency brackets to account for a variety of scenarios, but would the processes of team and bracket evaluation be helped by there being no games played on Selection Sunday?
It’s something worth considering, but it’s highly unlikely to happen due to television networks’ desires for inventory and conferences looking for as much national exposure as they can get (this is especially true for smaller conferences).
Still without an associate commissioner for men’s basketball, there will be a lot for that person to address whenever SEC commissioner Greg Sankey fills that vacancy. Obviously moving the tournament to November won’t be one of those issues, but why not consider moving the tournament up a day? Who knows, it could help the SEC when it comes to the late evaluation of its teams.