While oversigning is apt to be the hot button issue at the SEC meetings in Destin, we should not overlook the fact that Mike Slive has proposed ending the use of the divisional format in SEC basketball. This makes a great deal of good sense, as the divisional format really only works for football, and the use of such a structure can result in some truly bizarre seeding when one division clearly is stronger than the other (as was the case last year).
While we’re at it, though, why not do the same thing for baseball?
The Diamond Dogs finished the regular season with a 16-14 conference record, which would have been good enough to win the SEC West but sufficed only for fourth in a division that included Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt (all 22-8 in league play). Because Arkansas finished first in the West with a .500 record in conference contests---that’s right; the Hogs were the only team in the division that did not end up with a losing record in league play---the Razorbacks get the second seed in Hoover by virtue of a record that would have placed them fifth in the East.
The defending national champion Gamecocks deservedly received the No. 1 tourney seed they earned, but, because of the divisional format, the Gators, Commodores, and Bulldogs all received lower seeds than those which were warranted by their performance on the field. Due to that, fifth-seeded Georgia will open against fourth-seeded Vanderbilt, which just finished stomping the Red and Black in Athens like a narc at a biker rally.
Had the teams been seeded strictly by conference record---which would make sense, since this is, after all, the conference tournament---the first-round matchup would feature the fourth-seeded Bulldogs facing the fifth-seeded Razorbacks.
I believe Mike Slive is right to propose doing away with the divisional format in basketball, but the same rationale that justifies such a move on the hardwood applies equally as well to the diamond. The divisional structure works well in football, but not elsewhere. The SEC commissioner is right to recognize that, but his proposal does not go far enough. What’s good for basketball ought to be good for baseball, too.