By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
DESTIN, Fla. – The Southeastern Conference will remain with a 16-game league format for the sport of women’ s basketball, it was decided during the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin. Each team’s 16-game schedule will feature a single-round robin, with one permanent opponent and two random opponents. The permanent opponents for SEC women's basketball conference scheduling are: Alabama - Auburn; Arkansas - Missouri; Florida - Georgia; Kentucky - South Carolina; LSU - Texas A&M; Ole Miss - Mississippi State; Tennessee - Vanderbilt.
“In light of expansion, the coaches did a thorough review of the 16-game conference schedule already in place,” said SEC Assistant Commissioner Leslie Claybrook. “After the review and discussion, the coaches felt comfortable that a 16-game schedule would continue to work for them. They did vote on a format with one permanent opponent and two random opponents from the opposite division.”
The only change the league will see among permanent opponents from past years is that Arkansas and Missouri will be now be permanent opponents, as will LSU and Texas A&M.
The league’s 14 head coaches, who met this week in Destin, felt a 16-game schedule gave the SEC the best opportunity to get the most possible teams in the NCAA Tournament. A record-tying eight SEC teams made the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament field this past season.
“They thought that for postseason play, 16 games gave them the opportunity to have a competitive conference schedule and then for them to go out and schedule appropriately with their non-conference to get them ready for postseason play,” Claybrook said.
The SEC Tournament format will feature each of the league’s 14 teams and will begin a day earlier with a pair of games. New this coming year to the women’s format will be splitting the sessions in which the league’s top-two seeds play. The tournament’s top seed will play its early games in the afternoon session, while the No. 2 seed will play in the evening session.
“I’m really excited about the tournament next year expanding to 14 teams and having a bracket that separates the No. 1 seed in the afternoon session and the No. 2 seed in the evening session,” Claybrook said. “I think that will help draw fans to the stands and also give us great television coverage by separating those two seeds.”
Claybrook said the head coaches group also discussed the possibility of shifting the league’s playing dates from Thursday-Sunday to a Wednesday-Saturday format to allow student-athletes the opportunity for a day off. The conference and coaches group will take that recommendation under advisement.
"The coaches asked the conference office to work with our television partners to see if that’s feasible,” Claybrook said. “The changing of the play dates gives the student-athletes a true day off as opposed to playing on Sunday, returning late Sunday night and then still having a full day of classes to attend on their off day.”