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Should SEC basketball go to a 20-game schedule? Tennessee's Rick Barnes thinks so

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey06/03/24

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So far there’s not much know about Tennessee Basketball’s schedule for the 2024-25 season. The Vols know who they’ll face in Southeastern Conference play, where they’ll spend Feast Week and who they’ll play in the Jimmy V Classic. But outside of that, it’s still a relatively blank slate.

The same could be said for the future of the SEC’s conference schedule. The league opted to stay at 18 games despite the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the conference this season. 

That could change in the future, though, according to head coach Rick Barnes. And the move, like other power conferences have done after expansion, could be to 20 league games. 

“I do know our league’s studying it,” Barnes said during an interview with 99.1-FM The Sports Animal last week at SEC Spring Meetings in Florida, “but I guess next year we’ll be the only power five that doesn’t play 20, I think. And I think other teams are going more than that. 

“So my gut feeling will be that we’ll end up getting to 20 at some point. How soon, I don’t know.”

SEC announced opponents for 18-game schedule in May

The SEC announced conference opponents on May 13, with the dates on the schedule to be announced later this year.

The new-look league won’t look all that different for Tennessee at home. The Vols will play home-and-homes with Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt and will also host Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina at Food City Center next season.

They’ll play road games at Texas, Oklahoma, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, along with Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt.

“They both have good traditions, obviously,” Barnes said of the Texas and Oklahoma basketball programs entering the SEC. “They’ve had success, they really have. And it’ll make our league tougher, there’s no question about that.”

On the non-conference schedule, Tennessee will go to the Baha Mar Hoops Tournament in the Bahamas in November, playing two games from a group of three possible opponents — St. John’s, Baylor and Virginia.

Tennessee set to play Miami in Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden

It was reported last week that the Vols will play Miami in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. They’re also set to play at Illinois in December in the second game of a home-and-home that started with a Tennessee win in Knoxville last December. 

The Vols will also host an ACC-SEC Challenge game at home against a opponent that has not yet been announced, after starting the new event on the road at North Carolina last season.

But Barnes said “the real question” moving forward with the schedule is if and when the SEC goes to 20 games. And, after that happens, adjusting to all that comes with it.

The effects are already being felt from other leagues going to 20 games. 

“Because all these other leagues have gone to 20 games,” Barnes said, “it’s cut down the inventory on non-league games. It makes it harder now to schedule. And I think the key is that we’ve got to do what’s right to give us a chance to get as many teams in the NCAA Tournament. And if it means going to 20 games, I think we have to do it.”

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