The SEC's missed games (and an idea of what to do about them)

 Chris Lee   in Basketball

A lot of teams didn't play a lot of games this year, and that presents an issue

The Southeastern Conference, like just about everyone else, had a slew of games canceled due to Covid-19 complications. Each team has missed at least one game so far this season.

The good news: The SEC anticipated this, and left a space between its last regular-season game (March 3) and the start of the conference tournament (March 10, I Nashville).

A problem: There are still more games to be made up than the league can realistically make up. 

The elephant in the room: Texas A&M.

Before we go further--and yes, there's a schedule proposal at the end--here's a look at missed games by team:

Alabama: at Texas A&M

Arkansas: Texas A&M (home and away)

Auburn: Mississippi State

Florida: Texas A&M, at LSU, at Tennessee

Georgia: at Texas A&M

Kentucky: Texas A&M, South Carolina

LSU: Florida, at Missouri

Missouri: Vanderbilt, LSU, Texas A&M

Ole Miss: South Carolina

Mississippi State: at Auburn

South Carolina: at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, Tennessee

Tennessee: Florida, at South Carolina

Texas A&M: Arkansas (home and away), Vanderbilt (home and away), Alabama, Georgia, at Missouri, at Florida, at Kentucky

Vanderbilt: Texas A&M (home and away), at Missouri

So how should the league deal with this? I suggest a few guiding principles:

1. Don't wear anyone out. Sure, it would be great for everyone to play 18 games. For A&M, that obviously isn't happening. But unless you have multiple teams willing to do it, it seems unfair to ask a team to play three games in that span before the start of the conference tournament, especially one of the two bottom teams--which already have to win five games in five days to capture a title.

2. To simplify logistics and also help with fatigue, play all the games in Nashville. The Nashville Predators will be using Bridgestone Arena (where the tournament will be played) for home games on March 4 and 6. But Nashville has four Division I universities in Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb and Tennessee State (and an NAIA school, too, in Trevecca), and the league should be able to cobble something together between those venues. 

3. Prioritize separation in seeding. The battle for the four-seed could come down to Florida and Tennessee. The four-seed needs to win three games to win the tournament, while the five needs to win four. That's a big difference, so, making up a game like that should be first priority.

4. Use common sense. As I write this on the night of Feb. 23, Florida has played the league's easiest league slate according to KenPom.com, and Tennessee the next-easiest. That's another reason for the Gators and Vols to play, as well as a reason for the Gators to play LSU and not Texas A&M.

As for the Aggie problem, A&M missed two games against both Vanderbilt and Arkansas, so those should be A&M's two opponents. 

5. Add a non-scheduled game for some teams. Georgia and Alabama should end the regular season with one scheduled game to play. The game each missed was--you guessed it!--Texas A&M. So why not just pit the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide (who played once during the regular season) against each other as a way to give each an 18th game?

So here's a proposal, based on where things stand, presuming no more games are canceled and presuming that A&M is able to play two makeup games and the tournament:

Saturday, March 6

Vanderbilt-Texas A&M

Tennessee-Florida

LSU-Missouri

Kentucky-South Carolina

Auburn-Mississippi State

Monday, March 8

Arkansas-Texas A&M

Ole Miss-South Carolina

Vanderbilt-Missouri

Georgia-Alabama

Florida-LSU

There are two problems here. First, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas only get a game each under this scenario. 

I've spent a lot of time trying to find a way to pull off a second game for those teams, and I can't find a way where it doesn't cause something else to fall apart. One solution would be to give Kentucky and Tennessee a game on the 8th, but that would be the third meeting between those teams. 

Second, what if A&M doesn't play at all? This seems entirely possible, and maybe likely, since A&M hasn't played since Jan. 30 and the Aggies' Saturday game with Missouri has already been canceled.

In that case, a Vanderbilt-Arkansas game on March 6 might make sense (the Commodores will have already played Tennessee and Kentucky twice) and then, you could perhaps slide Tennessee or Kentucky into a March 8 game with the Razorbacks, though that still leaves one of those teams out. 

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