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May 30, 2012

Coaches agree on schedule

SANDESTIN, Fla. | While nothing is final, the Southeastern Conference men's basketball schedule is close to being signed, sealed and delivered.

The new schedule would include 18 conference games, up from 16 last year, with all 14 teams facing each other at least once.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said the schedule would include the following:

n Each team would have a "permanent" rival and would play a home-and-home series with that team each season. Alabama's rivalry opponent would be Auburn, Florida's would be Kentucky, etc.

n There would be four other rotating opponents for home-and-home each year, and one would rotate on and off the schedule each year.

n The SEC Tournament would feature a double-bye format with the top four seeds receiving byes into the third round of the tournament. The tournament would begin on a Wednesday, whereas it began on a Thursday in previous years.

Donovan said nothing is set in stone as of yet, but this schedule has the support of most, if not all, league coaches.

Alabama coach Anthony Grant said he's supportive of whatever plan passes.

"I really don't favor one over the other," Grant said. "At the end of the day our goal as a league is to get as many teams as we can into the postseason. So I think that when you look at the potential that we have and the teams that we've added, I'm excited about what it looks like for us as a league going forward.

"We're looking at a situation where we're able to get about six, seven, eight teams into the postseason."

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the women's basketball schedule, based on the recommendation of league coaches, would likely remain at a 14-game conference slate.

Grant looks back, ahead

Grant said the outlook of Alabama's 2012-13 basketball season depends largely on the growth of Alabama's young team, including rising sophomores Levi Randolph, Trevor Lacey, Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs.

Grant spoke about his team's growth last season and looked ahead to the future.

"I'm excited about the group we have. Obviously we have some big losses, some all-conference guys we lose," Grant said.

"We've got some young guys back who got some experience last year. An all-conference point guard in Trevor Releford and we have an experienced veteran guy in Andrew Steele to lead us. So for us it'll be about guys dedicating themselves to improving in the offseason. The growth and maturity the young guys show are important to next season."

On last season's suspensions: "It's difficult because so many people get affected by it. Not only the guys that have suspensions to deal with, but all the guys on the team. But I felt like our team was able to move on and respond."

In 2012-13 scheduling news, Grant said Alabama will participate in a four-team tournament in New York City, have rematches against Dayton and Virginia Commonwealth and play a game in the Big East-SEC Challenge.

"It's still a work in progress, but we're trying to make it as competitive out-of-conference schedule as we can.

New rules for 2012

SEC director of officials Steve Shaw highlighted the new kickoff rules that might catch some fans by surprise this season.

Per the new rules, kickoffs will take place at the 35 and touchbacks on kickoffs will bring the ball out to the 25 instead of the 20. Balls punted into the end zone will still be brought out to the 20.

"The intent was it was a safety-related change, thinking if you kick it in the end zone a team might be more likely to take a knee if they can bring it out to the 25" Shaw said. "That will be a pretty significant change. The intent was more touchbacks, less collisions."

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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