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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

League may ditch hoops divisions

DESTIN, Fla. (AP)—Football dominates talk at the SEC meetings, but there is plenty of basketball news on the agenda, too.

Some of it will involve Ole Miss and Mississippi State competing for championships.

Overall SEC championships have been rare, but division crowns have not.

There is a movement being considered that could mean the end of the divisional format in basketball.

“Is that format really helping us?” Georgia coach Mark Fox asked. “I’m not saying we have to change, but what’s best for SEC basketball? We have to look at the big picture. Everything cycles around, but obviously there’s a bit of a trend here.”

For two straight seasons, the SEC Western champion has been left out of the NCAA tournament.

That fact may be less significant to Eastern Division coaches than the fact that the top two teams in the West currently received a bye on the first day of the SEC tournament.

Another proposal is simply seeding teams differently for the SEC tournament, perhaps with RPI, as Florida coach Billy Donovan suggests.

Another change being considered is expanding the conference schedule from 16 games to 18 games.

“I favor East and West regardless of seeding or schedule, just because it gives our fans something to strive for at the end of the year. It’s exciting, like baseball this year. Nobody knew about the Western Division until the last pitch was done,” Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said.

Boone also said conference officials need to be willing to change to remain current with shifting landscapes in college athletics.

More cowbell?
Mississippi State cowbells will be discussed this week, and MSU coach Dan Mullen says the status quo is just fine.

A year ago the conference adopted change that laid out guidelines for when fans could ring bells at Davis-Wade Stadium.

“My understanding from the SEC in the last two home games we were in total compliance for what they wanted. Hopefully that rule will carry over and continue,” Mullen said.

The MSU administration helped its fans along with video-board messaging that let them know when to ring and when not to ring.

“It’s louder when we cheer. The rule encourages our fans to cheer more and makes the stadium louder when you’re on the field. It gives us more of a home-field advantage. For the noise factor, it’s an advantage to keep the rule as it is,” he said.

But Mullen also questioned the need for cowbell control in the first place.

“The hard thing is it’s an SEC-only rule. In the NCAA it’s completely legal. If we just went under the rules of the NCAA, the body we’re governed under, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. It would be completely legal. That’s the disappointing thing.”

This year’s Masoli?
Auburn coach Gene Chizik didn’t specifically address the possibility of adding former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson to his roster, but he’s clearly intrigued by the idea.

The Wilson-to-Auburn scenario would be a carbon copy of last summer when Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt added Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli.

“My job is to develop our roster in the best way we see fit to help Auburn win,” Chizik said. “Whoever is giving us to win championships, it’s my job to develop our roster.”

Wilson may in fact already have been offered by Auburn, but his status as a minor league baseball player makes his enrollment less than a slam dunk.

Nutt acknowledged the criticism he received for taking on Masoli and the legal problems he brought with him.

But he said it was the right thing to do, and he’d do it again. Predicting success is another matter.

Masoli was the leader of a 4-8 team after going 20-6 in two seasons as the starter at Oregon.

“Going by the Masoli experience, had Jeremiah had a better supporting cast, a (Dexter) McCluster, a (Shay) Hodge. … It all depends on the guy. Jeremiah can handle it. For some it might be a harder transition. Jeremiah was intelligent, smart. He wanted to be accepted by his peers. He did it with work ethic. That’s the key.” (June 2, 2011, Page 2B)

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