The SEC’s basketball coaches voted today to abandon the division format that’s been in place since 1992. That’s right, just one big 12-team division, like the women do. The vote was 11 “yays” and one “nay,” according to Wes Rucker. Any guesses as to who cast that dissenting vote?
Well, Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury talked about that very issue earlier today with our own Parrish Alford, before the vote actually came up. And he was opposed to abandoning divisions. The athletics directors have signed off on it; now the school presidents must approve the move on Friday for it to take effect.
So if the majority of SEC coaches have their way, the 2012 SEC Tournament will be seeded 1 through 12, which means MSU won’t be able to get a first-round bye simply by going 9-7 or 8-8 and finishing first or second in the Western Division. The Bulldogs got a bye this season after going 9-7 and finishing second to Alabama.
“No question I’d like to see it stay the way it is,” Stansbury said this morning. “I think it’s good for our league. It’s good for our fans. In the month of February if you’ve got one team running away with the league, everybody else down there not fighting for anything, I don’t think it creates as much excitement. It adds a lot of excitement for your fans if you’ve got two or three teams fighting for a championship where every game means something.”
MSU has won outright or shared the West title seven times, including five times under Stansbury, who’s about to enter his 14th year as head coach.
“It wouldn’t just help us, it would help anybody who finished with the right record,” he said. “It’s about finishing with the right record. We’ve been fortunate enough that it has helped us. I guess we’ve had some byes in the last seven, eight years.”
This change seems to have been spurred by the West’s struggles the past two seasons. In 2010-11, Alabama won the title with a 12-4 mark, but after the Tide came MSU (9-7), Ole Miss (7-9), Arkansas (7-9), Auburn (4-12) and LSU (3-13).
In 2009-10, MSU shared the West with Ole Miss, as both teams had a 9-7 mark. The other four West teams were all under .500 in league play.
MSU only reached the 2010 NCAA tournament by winning the SEC Tournament, and it missed the postseason altogether this year.
“Well, let me say this, people forget that three years ago South Carolina was co-champs of the East and didn’t get in (the NCAA tournament),” Stansbury said. “Everybody wants to talk about the last two years. It’s been a cycle.”