SEC scheduling changes irk coaches

jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 24, 2013 

Several Southeastern Conference coaches acknowledged that they did not like the league office getting involved in schedule-making. But after the SEC set an unwanted record by receiving only three NCAA Tournament bids in March, the coaches know they're not in a position to argue.

At its annual Spring Meeting last month, the SEC announced that it will ask each program to submit its proposed non-conference schedule to the league office. The intent is to ensure the schedules are difficult enough to boost each team's Ratings Percentage Index and, in an example of a rising tide lifting all boats, improve everyone's potential RPI.

"Not a huge fan, to be honest with you," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said on an SEC teleconference Monday. "I understand the reasoning."

Then he added that making a schedule is "a little more difficult than people who don't do it think it is."

South Carolina Coach Frank Martin echoed the sentiment.

"I'm not a kindergartner anymore," he said. "I think I can take care of my responsibilities."

But Martin also admitted that South Carolina was "part of the problem" last season. The Gamecocks had the worst-rated strength of schedule of the 14 SEC teams at No. 164, according to CBSSports.com. Four other SEC programs were outside the top 100 — No. 125 Auburn, No. 120 Mississippi, No. 114 Mississippi State and No. 106 LSU. Only two SEC programs ranked in the top 50 for strength of schedule — No. 21 Florida and No. 48 Missouri.

Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy noted that his program would start a home-and-home series with Oregon this coming season, play host to Dayton, play at Kansas State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge and be in neutral-site games against Georgia Tech and either St. John's or Penn State.

Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said his team was starting a series with Clemson, playing Iowa State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, facing Illinois in Atlanta and playing Boston College.

More than one coach noted that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive asked for the submission of schedules as part of an effort to stress the inter-connective quality of scheduling.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari, whose program ranked No. 70 in strength of schedule last season, said the SEC was not trying to dictate opponents as much as help guide league teams in playing more rewarding non-conference schedules.

Super size me!

SEC teams will add what's believed to be a record 10 McDonald's All-Americans next season. Since 1977, the most McDonald's All-Americans headed to SEC schools in any given year is believed to be seven in 2011. Those seven were Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kyle Wiltjer and Marquis Teague to Kentucky, Bradley Beal to Florida, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Georgia and Johnny O'Bryant to LSU.

Of course, Kentucky leads the way this year with six McDonald's All-Americans: Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee and James Young. The other four coming to the SEC are Kasey Hill and Chris Walker to Florida, Bobby Portis to Arkansas and Jarell Martin to LSU.

The 10 McDonald's All-Americans headed to the SEC is easily the most going to any one conference. The next highest total is six to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Pacific 12 is getting four.

Several coaches noted the influx of McDonald's All-Americans as a testament to the enduring strength of SEC basketball.

"It's why we've been one of the best leagues," Stallings said. "It's not surprising to me. It doesn't seem unusual. It seems pretty standard."

Goodwin's stock

While Nerlens Noel is widely projected as a lottery pick, and maybe the first player chosen in Thursday's NBA Draft, former UK teammate Archie Goodwin seems to be in a much more tenuous position. A first-round selection is not assured. Chad Ford, ESPN's draft analyst, projected Goodwin as the 40th best player available.

"I still think he'll have a chance to go in the first round," Calipari said of Goodwin. "He's got a bunch of those teams (picking) late in the first round that are all looking at him. His age is working in his favor, his athleticism, his toughness, his ability to get to the rim is working for him."

Goodwin struggled to make perimeter shots last season as a freshman. But Calipari downplayed the significance of Goodwin's 18.4-percent shooting from three-point range in SEC games.

"The last thing those (NBA) teams worry about is shooting, so I don't think that will work against him as much as everybody thinks," the UK coach said.

Calipari noted Goodwin's ability to deal with whatever happens in the draft.

"Would I have rather had Archie back? Sure I would have," Calipari said. "Would I have thought it was maybe in his best interest to probably come back? Yeah, maybe. But at the end of the day, what I think doesn't matter. I can give him the information and he's got to make that decision. Because whatever he did — come back or go — he's got to make it work."

One-and-done

Stallings on who benefits or suffers from so-called one-and-done players: "Something I don't give a lot of thought to because we don't attract that kind of kid, generally. Any school that could attract that kind of kid would do so, including us."

Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said that one-and-done players had hurt the NBA as well as college. The NBA was "supposed to be a league of men (and) became a development league."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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