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SEC announces new men’s basketball scheduling format

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For some conferences, the task of putting together a schedule has become a bit more cumbersome thanks to conference realignment with the size of the league ruling out the possibility of every team playing each other twice. With that being the case adjustments need to be made, and for the SEC this means a new scheduling format that was revealed at the conference’s annual meetings in Destin, Florida on Thursday.

While the number of conference games each team plays, 18, will not change the setup for the schedules has changed. In total each team will play five opponents both home and away with three of those being “permanent” opponents that they’ll see twice a year every season. They’ll face the other eight teams on the schedule just once, with four of those games being home contests and four coming on the road.

The conference also announced the three “permanent” opponents for each team, and they are:

Alabama – Auburn / Mississippi State / LSU
Arkansas – Missouri / Texas A&M / LSU
Auburn – Alabama / Ole Miss / Georgia
Florida – Kentucky / Georgia / Vanderbilt
Georgia – South Carolina / Florida / Auburn
Kentucky – Florida / Tennessee / Vanderbilt
LSU – Texas A&M / Alabama / Arkansas
Ole Miss – Mississippi State / Auburn / Missouri
Mississippi State – Ole Miss / Alabama / South Carolina
Missouri – Arkansas / Texas A&M / Ole Miss
South Carolina – Georgia / Tennessee / Mississippi State
Tennessee – Vanderbilt / Kentucky / South Carolina
Texas A&M – LSU / Arkansas / Missouri
Vanderbilt – Tennessee / Kentucky / Florida

According to the release the full SEC conference schedule will be unveiled in August. The SEC’s done a good job of protecting many of its rivalries with this move, and scheduling stability can only help the league moving forward. Five teams reached the NCAA tournament this past season, and the SEC is expected to take a step forward in 2015-16.

Reports: Utah, San Diego State to meet November 18 at Viejas Arena

Steve Fisher
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When Utah released its schedule for the 2014-15 season one date, November 18, was noticeable due to the lack of an opponent being listed. And according to multiple reports, the opponent expected to fill that date provided there are no issues in negotiations, will make the Utes’ schedule even tougher.

The opponent: San Diego State, which won 31 games and the Mountain West regular season title last season. The first game in the proposed home-and-home series would be played at Viejas Arena in San Diego, with Utah hosting the return meeting during the 2015-16 campaign.

Many expected the 2013-14 campaign to be one of transition for Steve Fisher’s Aztecs, but that obviously didn’t prove to be the case. SDSU also reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, falling to Arizona in the West regional semifinals. San Diego State will need to account for the loss of Mountain West Player of the Year Xavier Thames and leading rebounder Josh Davis, but they return three of their top five scorers led by rising junior Winston Shepard III.

Add to this group a highly-regarded recruiting class, and San Diego State is once again expected to be one of the preeminent teams on the west coast.

That should make for a good early season test for Utah, which won 21 games and reached the Postseason NIT in 2013-14. And just as importantly for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, playing San Diego State will help them when it comes to factors such as the RPI and non-conference strength of schedule, with the latter being a major issue for Utah in 2013-14.

Utah returns its top five scorers from last season’s team, led by Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection Delon Wright and forward Jordan Loveridge.

Utah’s 2014-15 non-conference slate will be more formidable than last year’s

Larry Krystkowiak
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Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes were certainly an improved basketball team in 2013-14, winning six more games than they did in 2012-13 and earning a spot in the Postseason NIT. However even after closing the regular season with wins in three of their final four games to reach the 20-win mark, Utah wasn’t seen as a team in the mix for an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament.

And the reason for that was a simple one: their non-conference schedule didn’t offer up enough quality wins to supplement a conference slate that included wins over eventual NCAA tournament teams UCLA, Arizona State and Colorado. Friday the school announced its non-conference schedule for 2014-15, and it’s a slate that will be far more beneficial to a team looking to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

Six of Utah’s non-conference games will be against teams that reached postseason play, including a home game against Wichita State (December 3) and contests away from Salt Lake City against BYU (December 10) and Kansas (December 13 in Kansas City). Utah will also play UNLV, which did not reach the postseason, in the MGM Grand Showcase on December 20.

“This non-conference schedule contains a challenging slate of games, both home and away,” Krystkowiak said in the release. “We as a staff have a strong belief in this team and this schedule, while getting us ready for the rigors of Pac-12 play, will help us take the next step forward.

“We also wanted to ensure our student-athletes have experiences that they can treasure and keep with them after their playing days. We are very excited for the upcoming season and can’t wait to get things rolling.”

Utah’s non-conference schedule was ranked 341st nationally according to rpiforecast.com, and a number that low won’t do a team any favors when it comes to reaching the NCAA tournament as an at-large. That shouldn’t be an issue in 2014-15, and with talented players such as guard Delon Wright and forward Jordan Loveridge leading the way Utah’s chances of reaching the field of 68 are better than they were a season ago.

And it should be noted that one date, November 18, remains unfilled on Utah’s schedule so they could add another quality opponent in the near future.

Report: Seton Hall, Wichita State to begin home-and-home series next season

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One of the tasks for programs during the summer is finalizing their non-conference schedule, and both Seton Hall and Wichita State took a step forward in that regard Friday.

The two programs, which haven’t met since the 2006 NCAA tournament, will play December 9 at Koch Arena on the Wichita State campus. Seton Hall will host the return meeting during the 2015-16 season at the Prudential Center in Newark. Wichita State finished the 2013-14 season with a record of 35-1, falling to eventual national runner-up Kentucky in the Round of 32.

Gregg Marshall’s Shockers will have some personnel losses to address in the front court, most notably Cleanthony Early, but guards Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet both return to lead the way for a team looking to win its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference title (both regular season and tournament).

As for the Pirates, there was no postseason in 2013-14 but the arrival of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes has sparked renewed optimism in South Orange. Lincoln (N.Y.) HS guard Isaiah Whitehead is the headliner of that group, and they’ll look to mesh with returnees such as guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina (forward Patrik Auda will explore pro opportunities overseas after having completed his degree, but the door remains open for a return to SHU).

That last meeting between Seton Hall and Wichita State also represents the last time the Pirates reached the NCAA tournament, a streak Seton Hall fans hope comes to an end in 2014-15. Wichita State won that game 86-66, eventually reaching the Sweet 16 where they fell to George Mason.

h/t Adam Zagoria

DePaul, Northwestern announce five-year series beginning in 2015

Chris Collins
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Prior to last season’s meeting between DePaul and Northwestern, the last time the two programs met on the basketball court came in 2008. Overall the programs have met 30 times, and according to an announcement from both schools the Blue Demons and Wildcats have agreed to a five-year series beginning with the 2015-16 season.

DePaul, which won last year’s game 57-56 on a Billy Garrett Jr. shot as time expired, will host three of the games with Northwestern hosting the other two at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“As a Chicago native, I think it’s terrific for basketball in the area to have Northwestern and DePaul play one another,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said in the release. “There have been some great games between the teams over the years and we look forward to that continuing.”

Also of note is that the two programs attempted to set up a game for the 2014-15 season but were unable to come together on a date, resulting in the series taking a “break” until the 2015-16 season. No date for that game was announced in the release.

Here are the highlights from last season’s meeting, culminating with Garrett Jr.’s game-winner.

Kansas State, Texas A&M agree to two-year series

Bruce Weber
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Both Kansas State and Texas A&M took another step towards completing their respective non-conference slates on Friday, as it was announced that the former conference foes have agreed to a two-year series. This won’t be your standard home-and-home series either, as the first game in the deal will be played in Kansas City on December 20, 2014.

While that will surely be a pro-Kansas State environment, playing at the Sprint Center isn’t the same as attempting to leave the “Octagon of Doom” in Manhattan with a victory. The return game will be played in College Station in December 2015.

Kansas State reached the NCAA tournament in Bruce Weber’s first season at the helm, falling to eventually national finalist Kentucky in the round of 64. Kansas State lost two key contributors in guards Shane Southwell and Will Spradling, but they return some solid pieces led by dynamic guard Marcus Foster. Add in a Top 100 prospect in forward Malek Harris, and Kansas State should be in contention for a return to the NCAA tournament.

As for Texas A&M the 2014-15 season shapes up as an important one for Billy Kennedy, who has just one postseason appearance to his credit in three seasons at the helm (2014 CBI). Guards Alex Caruso and Jordan Green return, and the addition of highly regarded freshman point guard Alex Robinson will be critical for the Aggies.

Games like this one, and an appearance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (which includes national champion UConn), have the potential to help Texas A&M as they look to make a move up the pecking order in the SEC.

“They’re an NCAA Tournament team that will have some key guys back and are coached by Bruce Weber, who is one of the better coaches in the country,” Kennedy said of Kansas State in the Texas A&M release. “Playing this game will help prepare us for the rest of our schedule, especially when we begin facing tough SEC competition.”