So one thing I haven’t seen written about elsewhere is that the SEC has opted for a new tournament format this year with the additions of A&M and Missouri. A reality of every 14-team conference tournament is going to end with a combined record of 13-13, the only question becomes how you as a conference try to allocate those wins and losses.
Let’s look at the new format:
I’ve tried a few times to make that format better, but if you click on the link, it should bring up a far bigger picture. This has never been a media-heavy blog, so work with me here.
Anyway, we see quite quickly that the SEC has adopted what a lot of conferences have done lately, which is given the top seeds “double-byes”. In the low-majors, this has become popular because they want their best teams being sent to the NCAAs, which gives them a better chance at advancing, thus bolstering their credibility and their coffers (since with advancement comes additional tournament money to be split amongst the conference members).
Here, that doesn’t seem to be the goal, or if it was, it’d be a rather silly one, since an upset champion in the SEC tournament typically helps the conference (the year Georgia won the SECT and got into the NCAAs as a 14-seed, the league didn’t cost itself a bid; it left the last out at-large team out in the cold).
However, I’m not sure what the hell the SEC is getting at here. It’s making tournament runs more difficult for the lower seeds, but to what end? I suppose winning the conference tournament marginally helps the better teams get better seeds the next week, but is it worth giving up the chance of an additional bid?
One thing’s for sure – there’s now a major incentive to keep playing until the end of the year, something that I hope the Gamecocks understand. If you can get yourself into the top 10, you’ve got a chance. But winning 5 games in a row? Sure 2011 UConn can do it, but I’m not sure the SEC is going to throw up many 2011 UConn’s as 8 seeds in the near future.
Given the tight nature of the SEC at this point in time, the Gamecocks can still realistically make a move for a top 10 spot, if only because they can help to move some of their challengers out of their path with games against LSU, Georgia, and Vanderbilt remaining on the horizon. It’s unlikely of course, but it’s something to keep an eye out for as you peruse the SEC standings the rest of the way.