Yesterday, the Southeastern Conference announced a new men's basketball scheduling model beginning with the 2015-2016 season. Each school will be paired with three other rival teams who they will play home-and-home every year, with Mississippi State being paired with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ole Miss Rebels and South Carolina Gamecocks.
This move was likely inspired by the loss of traditional home-and-home, rivalry games such as Kentucky-Tennessee and Florida-UGA. Despite the fact that these games usually don't mean much on the national stage, the meaning of these match ups to the respective fanbases is immense. While conference realignment has been anything but a pleasant process for anyone, this decision shows that the SEC is at least attempting to fix one of realignment's unintended consequences by reinforcing the importance of rivalries in college basketball.
The decision to pair Mississippi State with Ole Miss and Alabama seems obvious, however, the choice of South Carolina as a permanent partner for the Bulldogs is certainly an interesting one. Thanks in part to the years of East-West divisions in SEC basketball the Gamecocks and Bulldogs have met only 29 times (quite small compared to other traditional SEC opponents). Despite the relative newness of this "rivalry", any game against a Frank Martin squad should prove to be a fun one and now the Bulldogs are guaranteed two of those each season.
Check out all of the SEC's Permanent Opponents below.
Alabama - Auburn / Mississippi State / LSU
Arkansas - Missouri / Texas A&M / LSU
Auburn - Alabama / Ole Miss / Georgia
Florida - Kentucky / Georgia / Vanderbilt
Georgia - South Carolina / Florida / Auburn
Kentucky - Florida / Tennessee / Vanderbilt
LSU - Texas A&M / Alabama / Arkansas
Ole Miss - Mississippi State / Auburn / Missouri
Mississippi State - Ole Miss / Alabama / South Carolina
Missouri - Arkansas / Texas A&M / Ole Miss
South Carolina - Georgia / Tennessee / Mississippi State
Tennessee - Vanderbilt / Kentucky / South Carolina
Texas A&M - LSU / Arkansas / Missouri
Vanderbilt - Tennessee / Kentucky / Florida
Mississippi State and the entire 2016 SEC basketball schedule is expected to be announced in August.