ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 12: The Alabama Crimson Tide bench looks on during their 58 to 72 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats during the semifinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Since the Southeastern Conference expanded to 12 schools for the 1991-92 academic year, one of the biggest issues in the league has been dealing with the schedule and standings for men's basketball. While there have been years where conference play saw a fair amount of balance between the East and West Divisions (2006 and a pitiful 2009 among them), the gap between the two sides over the past two seasons meant the stronger East earned nine NCAA bids with no West teams making the field. That shutout included an Alabama Crimson Tide team that went 12-4 in the conference in 2010-11.
That snub of Anthony Grant team may have spurred the SEC's coaches into action. Today, at the conference meetings in Destin, Florida, they elected to scrap the two-division format for basketball.
You'll see a single table for SEC play and a straight 1 through 12 format for the SEC this season, but not an expanded schedule. Since the 2011-12 SEC basketball schedule has already been generated, an expanded schedule won't come into effect until the 2012-13 campaign. The current 16-game slate will still be an option there, as will an 18-game format. Reports say a 22-game double round-robin is also a possibility, but don't believe it. Nearly every conference caps league play at 18 games, with the lone exception, the Atlantic Sun, playing 20.
Our Georgia Bulldog blog, Dawg Sports, has a plan for an 18-game schedule that keeps the divisions, while changing tournament seeding to a straight 1 through 12 format. I happen to like this plan because it implements the permanent cross-division rival setup used in football. Basically, this is the format the Big 12 used for a 16-game schedule, that is, use the divisions for scheduling, but use a single table to determine the standings.
Florida Gator coach Billy Donovan suggested seeding the tournament by RPI, but that idea (thankfully) doesn't appear to have much support. The RPI has enough issues as is. It makes no sense to choose it over a revamped scheduling/standings format in determining a postseason bracket. After all, the comparisons aren't necessary in setting up a 12-team bracket as there are in a 68-team one (which sees teams left out objectively).
The SEC's athletic directors, also meeting in Destin, will next vote on the matter. Expect to see the changes set in stone in the coming days.