A story by Wes Rucker at GoVols247 ($) this morning suggests an awful possibility: the new SEC Basketball schedule, with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, could mean only one annual home-and-home rivalry series for each team in the conference. I have no concrete idea how the powers that be would structure an 18 game schedule, but Rucker's story includes quotes from both Cuonzo Martin and Dave Hart suggesting that if only one annual rivalry series was allowed, the Vols would draw Vanderbilt...meaning Tennessee and Kentucky would play each other only once per season more often than not.
You can make the math work several other ways - a 14 team league playing 18 conference games certainly allows for five annual home-and-home rivalry series for each team while playing the other eight opponents only once each year. I have no idea why we're not going in that direction, though I suppose some schools could find that setup unfair or unbalanced (I'm sure all of us would want Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Florida twice a year under a model like that, which might make it harder to win the league, but then again life has never been easy in the old SEC East in basketball).
Only one annual rivalry series means you would see the other twelve opponents through the other sixteen games - four home-and-homes each year on a rotating basis, I assume. Of course, the Vols will still play Kentucky and everyone else in the league at least once every season, but we'd only get to see UT/UK home-and-home one out of three years (I think - there's math involved, and I'm the wrong writer for that).
What I hate about this even more is that I guarantee you Kentucky will draw Florida in this format. Most of the other matchups for annual rivalries make sense (Alabama/Auburn, Mississippi/Mississippi State, some combination of Arkansas/LSU/Missouri/A&M, us and Vanderbilt), which would leave UK/Florida and Georgia/South Carolina. The Cats and Gators have had a lot of sizzle in the last decade, no doubt, but no team in the SEC has beaten Kentucky more than Tennessee. I realize UK is the biggest rival for a number of teams in this league, but no team in this league is a bigger rival to them than we are. And not that we wouldn't enjoy two chances to beat on Kevin Stallings every season, or that UT-Vandy isn't a rivalry...but man, it just doesn't seem right to have a season where Kentucky doesn't come to Knoxville or Tennessee doesn't go to Rupp.