The topic was the same.
How does the SEC improve its middling reputation in men’s basketball?
“To be honest, I was completely shocked that only three teams got in last year,” said Vanderbilt’s Bryce Drew, the league’s lone new coach this year. “Some, it’s one win here or there, a bad loss at a bad time. I think we’re right there at the edge, hopefully where we’re getting in half the teams.”
Drew, who led Valparaiso to two NCAA Tournaments and two NITs in five seasons, mimicked what the league’s coaches have been saying for years. The SEC plays good basketball, but good luck getting the rest of the nation to accept it.
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Drew hopes for seven SEC teams in the tournament. That wasn’t a problem from 1999-2008, when the league put six (then half the league) in the NCAA Tournament eight times. Since, it’s been tough to come close to replicating it – only twice since 2009 has the SEC gotten five teams in, and has been limited to three teams in four seasons since 2009.
The league has again taken steps to correct it, hiring former Big East honcho Mike Tranghese as a special advisor and naming American Athletic Conference Associate Commissioner Dan Leibovitz as the new associate commissioner for men’s basketball.
Will it help? Who knows.
“I don’t think there’s one thing that can be done differently,” said South Carolina coach Frank Martin, whose team went 24-8 in the regular season last year, but was still scorned by the selection committee. “When you got coaches like Bruce Pearl, John Calipari, Rick Barnes, Mike Anderson – just keep going, it’s one after the other. We have to do a better job on the campuses in the league of promoting what’s good.”
Martin added that it’s difficult to know what the selection committee values from year to year – RPI, schedule strength, playing on the road, etc. The SEC’s newest venture is that league teams can only schedule nonconference opponents with a three-year average RPI of 175 or above, but the teams still have to win.
“I just think we need one concrete thing,” Martin said. “That way it’s not a moving target each year.”
Leibovitz said scheduling rules are in place, and it’s up to the coaches to meet those regulations and then win the games.
“The eyeballs of the committee, they go to those Top-50 wins, whether we like it or not, that’s the first thing they look at,” he said. “You’re just going to have to schedule well, you’re going to have to play well.”
MARTIN UPDATES SCHEDULE
The Gamecocks planned to release the nonconference schedule last week, but had a last-minute cancellation. Martin said USC has one game to fill.
“I got one game to schedule, and it’s driving me nuts. We got a couple of irons in the fire,” Martin said, saying one possibility isn’t great date-wise, but he might take it anyway. “I might just sign off on it to get it over and done with.”
Known games are: hosting Monmouth on Nov. 15; vs. Syracuse in Brooklyn on Nov. 26; vs. Seton Hall in New York on Dec. 12; at USF on Dec. 17; and dateless games hosting Clemson and at Memphis. USC’s home-and-home SEC opponents are Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee.
The SEC plans to release its conference schedule in mid-August.
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