It's the week of the Southeastern Conference spring meetings, so you just know there's going to be at least one bad idea that seems like a good idea on paper. And we have a strong candidate for such an idea:
SEC requiring hoops teams to schedule nonconference opponents with three-year RPI average of 175 or better.— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) May 31, 2016
Sounds good, right? Scheduling better opponents in nonconference play will lead to SEC teams having better RPI ratings, which will mean more teams in the NCAA Tournament. It will be just like the Pac-12 did in 2016! What could possibly go wrong?
We'll let Georgia head coach Mark Fox answer that one:
"It’s can’t be just scheduling," Fox said. "The bottom teams in the league have to schedule games that they can win. They can schedule a bunch of hard games, but if they don’t win any of them, it doesn’t help us. Then when we play them, their RPI numbers hurt us. It can’t be one size fits all."
Fox has identified the real source of the problem. It isn't that Mississippi State scheduled Southern (RPI: 186) and UMKC (RPI: 286); it's that they lost to those teams. Arkansas losing to Mercer (RPI: 194) and Ole Miss losing to George Mason (RPI: 202) weren't helping matters, either.
Meanwhile, Auburn played the No. 40 nonconference schedule, and Tennessee played the No. 53 nonconference schedule. Their RPI? 175 and 145, respectively.
Scheduling better can only take you so far. Yes, South Carolina might have made the NCAA Tournament in 2016 had they played a better nonconference schedule. They also might have made the NCAA Tournament if they had not lost to Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Missouri. At the same time, South Carolina came a lot closer to making the tournament than Auburn did, but that's because South Carolina was just flat out a better team than Auburn.
You see where this is going?
SEC teams don't need to schedule better, they need to get better at basketball. Solve that problem, and then we can worry about whether a borderline team's nonconference SOS is up to snuff.