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SEC considers changing the format of its conference tournament

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Frustrated that its football-centric Western Division continues to lag behind the East on the basketball floor, the SEC is considering some format changes to help solve the problem.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the league is weighing the pros and cons of scrapping its two-division format for men's basketball and putting all 12 teams together for the regular season. Another possibility is seeding the teams one through 12 rather than by the finish in a respective division.

"We'll bring it up to our AD's at some point later in the week,'' Slive told reporters on Tuesday at the SEC's spring meetings in Florida.

The lack of balance in the SEC was especially apparent last season when the East put two teams in the Elite Eight and four in the NCAA tournament compared to zero from the West. Teams from the East went 27-9 agains the West in the regular season, yet Ole Miss and Mississippi State received two of the four first-round conference tournament byes for finishing first and second in the West at 9-7.

Although Alabama and Auburn made strides in recruiting and Mississippi State returns a potential NCAA tourney team, there's reason to believe the balance of power in the league will be just as lopsided next season if changes aren't made. Kentucky figures to contend for a Final Four again, Florida returns five starters from last year's 21-win team, Tennessee and Vanderbilt should contend for the NCAA tournament and Georgia might be the most improved team in the league.

The SEC put four teams in the NCAA tournament this past season after only three the year before, but Slive isn't satisfied with the league just yet.

"We're not there yet. Progress is measured by going up in a line and it's a lot better than last year," Slive said. "I expect us to continue to get better."

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