published Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

SEC keeping tourney format

At least for now, the top two men's teams in each division still will get postseason byes

In the end, there was too little time for too big a topic.

During the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings earlier this month in Destin, Fla., men's basketball coaches discussed ways in which they could reseed teams in the conference tournament. They even touched on doing away with the two divisions, but when the meetings adjourned, everything was status quo.

"When you get into a meeting like that and talk about it for the first time and it goes around and around for a bit of time, I don't think anybody felt like it was in the best interest of the league for us just to jump into a decision without giving it some serious, significant thought," Florida's Billy Donovan said during Monday's SEC teleconference. "What we'll probably end up doing would be to really spend some time here this summer, preseason and throughout the season, and there will probably be some things that we'll have to think about as coaches going forward.

"I don't see the tournament changing going into this year, but could it change down the road? I think that's a possibility."

Since Arkansas and South Carolina joined a 10-team membership before the 1991-92 season, the SEC has employed two six-team men's divisions with the top two finishers in each receiving byes in the conference tournament. That worked well for many years, but the East has thoroughly dominated the West twice in the past four seasons.

Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida went 24-0 against West teams this past season, but UT's Volunteers and Donovan's Gators had to play on the opening day of the SEC tournament, while Mississippi State and Ole Miss received byes. In 2007, Florida (13-3), Tennessee (10-6), Vanderbilt (10-6) and Kentucky (9-7) had better league records than Mississippi State and Ole Miss, which each finished 8-8.

The biggest debate earlier this month was whether or not to reward teams with the four best records regardless of division with byes.

"I was for the way things are right now," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "I like division play, and I think the fairest way year in and year out is to seed it off of how you perform in your division. That's the way it ended up staying, but there was a lot of discussion about it."

Said Vandy's Kevin Stallings: "I would have been OK if we had done it, and I'm OK not doing it. I think those of us in the East, even though we know what a brutal proposition it is night in and night out, enjoy being in what we feel is the toughest division in all of college basketball."

Donovan admitted that selecting the top overall records wouldn't always be a cinch. This past season, Florida and Mississippi State tied for the fourth best league record at 9-7.

The Gators won the only head-to-head meeting, but it was in Gainesville.

"That's where we came to a stalemate and didn't know what direction to go, because I don't know what the solution or answer is," Donovan said. "When you make changes or decisions like this in a spring meeting, you don't want to make a decision in an hour conversation. I just don't think that's ever healthy, but we have some things that we can really think about as coaches in our league and maybe come to some conclusions that will be great for the game of basketball in our league and help our tournament."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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