We all know at this point that Oklahoma and Texas are joining the SEC in the very near future. By adding two more teams to a league of 14, schedule changes were going to be necessary. So yesterday, the SEC announced that the conference presidents and chancellors had agreed to change the schedules 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 come and go about whether there should be 8 or 9 conference games, and whether there will be splits or pods. A conference rival and rotating opponents, or whatever. There are a lot of proposals floating around, so let’s focus on what has been approved.
You all know me as a basketball player, so let’s start with what we know from other programs and get to the hoops.
Regular Season: Soccer will continue to compete in a two-division format. Each season, a team will face seven divisional opponents plus three interdivisional opponents on a rotating basis, for a total of 10 conference games.
SEC Football Championship: 12 teams will compete in a knockout format, with the top four seeded teams receiving a first-round bye.
This is similar to how baseball works now. You must qualify to participate in 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, as per 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 to 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 knockout format, consistent with the current format but with two additional games.
I’ll let others comment on this, but I’m not sure I like the lack of rivalry here.
Finally, Hoops. Let’s start with the women:
Regular Season: Each season, a team will play a rotating opponent home and away, as well as the remaining 14 teams in single games home or away, for a total of 16 conference games.
SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament: All 16 teams will compete in a knockout format, consistent with the current format but with two additional games. The top four seeded teams will continue to receive byes to the first two rounds of the tournament.
A single regular rivalry and a rotating 16-match schedule leaves a bit to be desired. It keeps a more robust non-conference slate intact. And the Conference is already a pretty brutal league to play. But it’s still a bit disappointing to be limited to one permanent rivalry. Especially with former Big 12 opponents entering the league.
Now on to the men:
Regular Season: Each season, a team will play two permanent home and away opponents, one rotating home and away opponent, plus the remaining 12 teams in single home or away matches, for a total of 18 conference games.
SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament: The 16 teams will compete in a knockout format, consistent with the current format but with two additional games. The top four seeded teams will continue to receive byes to the first two rounds of the tournament.
An unbalanced schedule is not 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 opponents rotating home and home, and all others rotating home and away. Thus, the league abandons a permanent rivalry and only adds a home-and-home rotation while expanding the league schedule to 18 games.
The conference tournament is basically unchanged with just a few more teams playing on Opening Day (which is rumored to move from Wednesday to Tuesday). Thus, the day when Missouri seems to be perpetually stuck has just extended. So yay, no more friends!
But getting into the Permanent Rival business is where I find a lot of intrigue. Currently, Mizzou has Arkansas, Texas A&M and Ole Miss as a permanent rival. Immediately after Mizzou, here are the permanent rivals of these teams:
- Ole Miss: Mississippi State, Auburn, Missouri
- Texas A&M: LSU, Arkansas, Missouri
- Arkansas: Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU
If I did that, I would create four 4-team mods, because I think it’s easier to create regional rivalries. 3 home and home rivalries equals 6 games. Playing everyone is 18 conference games. Personally, I like the idea of having more consistency in who you play. Two rivals is so little.
Obviously, I think Missouri is paired with Arkansas as one of the main rivalries. But who is the other? The most logical games are those of the former Big 12 teams, Texas, Texas A&M or Oklahoma. My preference would be OU, with the old school Big 8 links. Even though the Big 8 has been around for almost 30 years, the connection still resonates and could be rekindled more quickly.
Proximity would include Ole Miss. Vanderbilt, and maybe Kentucky. If you’re looking regionally, Texas A&M probably pulls Texas and LSU. Texas probably attracts Oklahoma and if there is no objection from College Station to Texas and A&M being permanent, it makes perfect sense in the world. These matchups likely take Texas and A&M out of the bidding for a matchup against Mizzou.
The problem is that the original SEC schools are likely to fight over their traditional rivalries.
Ole Miss against Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn, Georgia and Florida. There are also regional rivalries that make sense, Florida and South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, even Arkansas and Oklahoma.
This is the task now. Choose only two permanent rivals in the league.
Here is my shot:
- Alabama: Auburn, Miss State
- Arkansas: Missouri, USL
- Auburn: Alabama, Ole Miss
- Florida: Georgia, South Carolina
- Georgia: Florida, South Carolina
- Kentucky: Tennessee, Vanderbilt
- USL: Texas A&M, Arkansas
- Miss State: Ole Miss, Alabama
- Missouri: Arkansas, Oklahoma
- Oklahoma:Texas, Missouri
- Ole Miss: Miss State, Auburn
- Caroline from the south: Florida, Georgia
- Tennessee: Vanderbilt, Kentucky
- Texas: Oklahoma, Texas A&M
- Texas A&M: LSU, TX
- Vanderbilt: Tennessee, Kentucky
Let me know your thoughts below.