DESTIN, Fla. — Mike Slive sent a familiar message to basketball coaches at the SEC spring meetings this week.
The commissioner called for a scheduling upgrade. Again.
To make his point more emphatically, he said the conference office wants to see non-conference schedules in advance.
You can’t blame him. When the league’s No. 2 team in the regular-season can’t qualify for the NCAA tournament, there’s an obvious problem.
But the problem goes beyond scheduling. As Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart pointed out, it’s not enough to schedule games against formidable opponents.
“You can’t have six games against top-50 RPI teams and lose them all,” he said. “You have to win some of them.
“It’s still about winning.”
And that underscores the SEC’s postseason issues.
While scheduling is a factor, so is the talent level. Better recruiting would do more for the conference than tougher scheduling.
Kentucky has recruited better than anyone on coach John Calipari’s watch. Florida has long been prominent in recruiting under Billy Donovan. But they’re exceptions in the SEC.
Tennessee strengthened its schedule and recruiting under former coach Bruce Pearl.
It also has been above the SEC norm in two seasons under Cuonzo Martin. However, surpassing the SEC norm for scheduling is hardly cause for celebration.
Tennessee played Oklahoma State, Georgetown and Virginia away from home last season. It played home games against Memphis and Wichita State, which made the Final Four.
Hart said that schedule was “OK.”
The next one should be comparable. There will be road games at Wichita State and Xavier, and a home game against Virginia in 2013-14.
“We’re in pursuit of one more really attractive game,” Hart said. “We swung and missed at one blockbuster game. We just couldn’t make it happen.”
He would prefer to play another more appealing opponent at Thompson-Boling Arena but wouldn’t be opposed to playing such a game at a neutral site.
Martin says he also wants a challenging schedule but points out, “You’ve got to have the personnel to schedule at a high level.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for the Vols. Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae, their two best players last season, return. So does Jeronne Maymon, who missed this past season with an injury.
Moreover, Martin just bolstered his roster with the addition of Memphis transfer Antonio Barton, who’s expected to start at
There’s enough talent and experience that Tennessee shouldn’t have to agonize over its fate on Selection Sunday.
But you can’t say that for the entire conference, which is why Slive felt obligated to become more involved with the scheduling.
“I applaud Mike for taking a leadership role,” Hart said. “We’ve got to look at scheduling.
“All the league’s non-conference scheduling will now go through the conference office.”
And Hart wouldn’t mind if Slive took it a step further and vetoed a school’s non-conference schedule.
“If the league’s going to get better, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he said.
Maybe if Slive had exercised veto power over schedules last season, he might have saved South Carolina the embarrassment of losing to Elon.
But there’s nothing he can do for recruiting.