BOWLING GREEN – Kentucky coach John Calipari was at the forefront of an announcement in May that the Southeastern Conference would do away with its East and West divisions for basketball in favor of one 12-team league.
The unresolved issue in that change is what to do with the conference schedule. Previously, Kentucky and the others played a 16-game SEC regular season slate, facing East Division opponents home and away and the six West teams one time per year.
For this upcoming season it will remain at 16 SEC games using the same format though the divisions have been dissolved. In future years, that could expand as high as 22 games if every team played every league opponent both home and away.
That 22-game slate might be most fair to determine an SEC champion, but don’t expect that to ever see the light of day.
“They should never to go to 22. It would be a disaster at 22,” Calipari said Monday during UK’s camp at Bowling Green High School.
According to Calipari, to focus on SEC games is to miss the entire reason for doing away with divisional races, which allowed a team with a worse record to get a better seed for the conference tourney merely for winning their division.
“We have to look at non-conference scheduling first and then worry about league scheduling,” Calipari said. “It’s about non-conference strength of schedule, non-conference RPI. We’re one league now so the balance of our league schedule can be worked out.”
Personally, Calipari likes the status quo.
“Sixteen should be fine, 18 would be OK. I’d rather not have it, but if it would be best for the league that would be fine,” Calipari said. “But it’s about our non-conference scheduling. If we get that right, the other stuff falls into place and we get eight teams in the discussion and have a minimum of six teams every year in the NCAA Tournament.”
Calipari admits anything above the current 16-game league schedule will impact Kentucky more than any other SEC school.
“It would, but if it’s going to make the SEC better then it’s fine for us,” the coach said. “It’s not going to devastate us, but it would take money away from our other programs. Obviously, we generate a lot of money from our home games and if you take away even one home game away from us, you’re talking about a million dollars.”