CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- John Shulman thinks the Southern Conference finally got it right.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach said this week he fully supports the league's recent decision to tweak the men's basketball schedule and tournament seeding process next season, calling both moves "fair."
At the conference's annual meetings in Asheville, NC, last week, officials voted to give only the two division winners guaranteed byes in the first round of the SoCon tournament. The two additional first-round byes will now go to the two teams with the best conference records, regardless of division.
The previous format gave the top two teams in each division a first-round bye.
"It's a good set up. It gives the conference the best chance to get one of its best four teams through to the NCAA Tournament," Shulman said. "Last year Elon got a first-round bye for finishing second in our division, but it had a worse league record than two teams in the South."
While Shulman was happy with the seeding switch, he was far more excited about the league's decision to cut the conference basketball schedule from 18 games down to 16.
Starting in the 2012-13 season, each team will play every opponent in its division twice and every team in the opposing division just once. The move eliminates two extra cross-division games, which rotated on an annual basis and often skewed the balance of schedule difficulty from season-to-season.
The Mocs, for example, had to play two games apiece with the South Division's top two finishers, Davidson and Georgia Southern, while North Division champ UNC-Greensboro doubled-up against SoCon cellar-dweller The Citadel last season.
"If we're going to stay in divisions, we need to have a 16-game schedule," Shulman said. "It's the first time since I've been in the league that it's now fair. If you don't do this in divisions, the only other fair way to do it is to have 22 league games, and that's an awful lot of league games.
"It's got to be one of those two after dabbling with 18, and I think everyone made the right decision."
The reduced schedule will also add more opportunities to schedule higher-profile Division I non-conference games, and should eliminate the need to play conference games in the first month of the season.