Mike Strange: SEC hoops coaches understand schedules need a boost

It’s nearly 90 degrees outside, Wimbledon and the College World Series championship just got underway and we’re 65 days from the first college football game.

So, naturally, the media types who cover the SEC spent Monday hashing out the block/charge rule, an uncharacteristic influx of McDonald’s All-Americans and coercion to beef up the non-conference RPI.

Since Butch Jones hasn’t landed a commitment in the past 30 minutes, let’s talk a little hoops.

The SEC staged a summer teleconference for the league’s 14 coaches. The big story was overlooked — that every coach in the league is back for the first time in at least a decade.

The day’s real news broke after everybody hung up. Kyle Wiltjer, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, is leaving Kentucky. Devonta Pollard, Alabama’s 2012 McDonald’s All-American, has withdrawn from school due to legal problems.

For my money, the quote of the day came from Missouri’s Frank Haith on the 2017 SEC men’s tournament apparently headed to St. Louis.

“It’ll be terrific,’’ said Haith, “for the SEC to bring SEC basketball to the Midwest.’’

Yeah, the Midwest, right where it belongs. Another bonus from football-driven expansion.

The most timely topic is commissioner Mike Slive flexing muscle in the scheduling area. The coaches have to submit their non-conference schedules to Birmingham for, more or less, blessing.

Too many SEC schools have had a sweet tooth for cupcakes in November and December. You get wins, but the RPI suffers from the empty calories. In turn, the rest of the league’s RPI suffers. And when the phone rings on Selection Sunday, it’s the NIT calling.

Last year, only three of the 14 teams in the nation’s famously superior football league were deemed fit for the 68 slots in the NCAA basketball bracket: Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss.

Ole Miss nabbed the automatic bid for winning the SEC tournament. Otherwise, the Rebels might have been NIT-bound for a fourth straight year due to passive scheduling.

Predictably, there was some grumbling about the new hands-on approach.

“Like I told my boss,’’ said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. “I like to do my own scheduling. I’m not in kindergarten any more.’’

And Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings:

“Scheduling is a little bit more difficult than the people who don’t do it think it is.’’

Andy Kennedy reported that Ole Miss has addressed

the issue, initiating series with Oregon and Dayton, among others. Past schedules might have opted for Eastern Oregon and Dayton School of Design.

Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin didn’t have anything for which to apologize. The Vols continue to schedule well. The next step is to win more of those marquee games.

Even the other Martin has come around.

“I understand South Carolina was part of the problem,’’ he said.

“We’re all one big family. My doings can not negatively impact the other 13 schools.’’

Back to Cuonzo Martin, he reported that Jeronne Maymon is looking like his old self. He also said that even though he’s a defense-first coach, he can live with the block/charge rule being tweaked to benefit the offensive player.

“We spend a lot of time working on taking a charge,’’ Martin said, “but I have no problem with (the tweak) as long as it’s consistent across the board.’’

Ten McDonald’s All-Americans are entering the league, which might be a record. Six of them are restocking John Calipari’s roster at Kentucky. Business as usual.

But Florida landed a pair (Kasey Hill, Chris Walker) and LSU (Jarrell Martin) and Arkansas (Bobby Portis) also signed McStars.

Fourteen members of Rivals’ Top 50 list chose the SEC, including Robert Hubbs of Tennessee.

“Good players,’’ said Calipari, “doesn’t guarantee you winning, but bad players guarantee you losing.’’

That might be especially true if you’re cutting some of the cupcakes out of your diet.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

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Comments » 7

mocsandvolsfan writes:

"bad players guarantee you losing"-rocket science there Cal!?

ALL's I care about is playing the teams we tradtionally play each year. I like the traditional rivalries. I'm old like that.

VolzsFan writes:

Has anyone ever looked at the schedules of other teams in other conferences? Not some bs rpi but look at them. they are horrific.

ActualUTAlum writes:

I have to give UT props for scheduling well OOC in basketball. It started with Pearl, and Cuonzo seems to be on the same page. We've been treated to some great teams coming into TBA and I'm glad UT is kind of leading the way in that area.

Volbound1700 writes:

The problem wasn't actually the schedules, it was the fact the SEC didn't get any wins when they did have tough teams on the schedule. Look at Tennessee:

Memphis - Loss
Oklahoma State - Loss
Georgetown - Loss
Virginia - Loss

Win some of those games and we would be in. You can go down the line with most of the SEC teams and that was the case. Key is not just to schedule but WIN the games.

CoverOrange writes:

I must have missed it. What was the tweak to the block/charge rule?

Olddogsrule writes:

Even when watching video, the NCAA rules committee had trouble agreeing whether it was a charge or block under old rules, and would split about 50/50 whether it was a charge or block, so ya know, I can be totally wrong on this.

OLD: The defender only has to be in position before the player jumps. So, if the ball handler is off his feet but defender is already in position, it can be called charge, not a block.

NEW TWEAK: The defense doesn't draw a charge, but will be called for blocking when contact is made after the ball handler starts to move upward when passing or shooting.

Too many bad calls old way. Offense is in the air on long leap, defender moves in & sets, offense is called for charging, ... or not.

So, is it once the ball handler, when, if he's dribbling grasps the ball with two hands, is that the initial upward motion? Or is it when the ball handler starts to move the ball upwards, say with one hand for a one-handed pass? or is it when the player's body language indicates upward motion, even if still dribbling?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

Even when watching video, the NCAA rules committee had trouble agreeing whether it was a charge or block under old rules, and would split about 50/50 whether it was a charge or block, so ya know, I can be totally wrong on this.

OLD: The defender only has to be in position before the player jumps. So, if the ball handler is off his feet but defender is already in position, it can be called charge, not a block.

NEW TWEAK: The defense doesn't draw a charge, but will be called for blocking when contact is made after the ball handler starts to move upward when passing or shooting.

Too many bad calls old way. Offense is in the air on long leap, defender moves in & sets, offense is called for charging, ... or not.

So, is it once the ball handler, when, if he's dribbling grasps the ball with two hands, is that the initial upward motion? Or is it when the ball handler starts to move the ball upwards, say with one hand for a one-handed pass? or is it when the player's body language indicates upward motion, even if still dribbling?

In practice, this rule interpretation, tweak, change, whatever, will make it very difficult for the defense to draw a clean charge. It is to be hoped that not every instance where contact occurs will instead be judged a block. The only way the defense can play is to not give the offense a presumption of being fouled. For example, the offensive player drives right at the body of the defender, the defender holds his ground and doesn't get his hands involved, contact occurs, and the offensive player falls to the floor, i.e., incidental contact initiated by the offensive player, but the result is a missed shot--play on! Otherwise, there is no reason why offensive players shouldn't just run over anybody they can, and that will lead to an entirely different game than the one most of us grew up playing.

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