USC Men's Basketball

5 ways to improve SEC basketball

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin
South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin AP

Coaches and athletic directors spent a lot of time in Destin, Fla., last week trying to figure out how to improve SEC basketball.

Conference teams were 8-28 against RPI top 50 teams in out-of-conference games and had a losing record against the other five major conferences.

“We had a bad year so instead of saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we had a bad year,’ we thought, ‘What do we do?’ ” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said.


Former NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen, who presided over the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, has been brought on board as a consultant to the SEC. He has a formula that will help the schools improve RPI numbers. Only six conference schools were in the country’s top 80 in RPI and three, including South Carolina, were below 200.

One of the highlights of Shaheen’s discussions with coaches is that most teams in the league must make their out-of-conference schedule better for the good of the entire league. “What we are trying to say is we are all tied to each other,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “So if your non-conference schedule is really bad, it’s affecting us.”


The SEC has made an edict that all future non-conference schedules must be sent to the commissioner’s office for review before being finalized.

Martin knows that finger is pointed straight at him, and he understands why. South Carolina’s out-of-conference schedule was rated the country’s 336th strongest last year, Martin said.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “That impacts every team in our league in a negative way. We hurt our league this year. That can’t happen again. That never happened under my watch at K-State. It’s not going to happen at South Carolina anymore.”

South Carolina may have cost Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Martin believes.

“If my non-conference strength of schedule had been 230 instead of 330 then their RPIs are all in the 40s. Now maybe two of the three get in,” he said.


Once the games are scheduled, many coaches in the league, including Calipari and Florida’s Billy Donovan, think they need to be played less physically.

“People don’t want to see (fouls),” Calipari said. “They want to see the flow of the game.”

This could also be a reference to Martin’s Gamecocks, who play a physical style, but Martin said, “I don’t see why we should change anything. There is a difference between playing physical and fouling. The rules are written a certain way and when you violate them, you should be called.”


The coaches discussed going to a 30-second shot clock from the current 35 but decided that wasn’t the key issue.

“We could have a 15-second shot clock. If we don’t stop fouling each other and rewarding the teams that foul, it doesn’t matter,” Calipari said. “You can’t get a shot off. They say they are going to call them. What will happen is if they are going to do what they say they are going to do, all of us will have to adjust to it, but we need to.”


The best way to turn around the league’s image is for the schools to win more games -- “plain and simple,” Martin said.

But Martin said he disagrees with those who say the SEC is no good. “I am tired of hearing that nonsense,” he said. “It’s the most nonsense I have ever heard in my life.”

Martin pointed out that the SEC has produced three of the last seven national champions in the sport.

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