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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Scheduling for 16

I am not sure if this is "news" or not, as I do not know the date of these decisions, but I just read an ESPN Insider article by Jay Bilas about scheduling for the new and revamped Big East in 2005-2006 and the decisions were news to me.

Here is what he has to say on the Big East Regular Season scheduling:

The Big East, with some very smart people in the conference office, couldn't figure out a way to put together a coherent schedule that would determine a true regular season champion, and cannot have a tournament that gives everyone a fair shot at the automatic bid. It's not their fault -- it's a practical impossibility in a 16-team league. Such are the downsides to expansion.

The Big East decided that each team would play 18 conference games, and play everyone once, and three teams twice in a home-and-home. The teams that will play twice will not be predetermined, but rather, decided upon annually with television as part of the decision making process. That means that the big shots will play each other twice, because that makes the best television and the most compelling big games. It is a reasonable way to go, but it is not anywhere near fair.

And then, what about the conference tourney? Here is what Bilas had to say about the tourney:

The toughest call the Big East had to make was about the conference tournament ... and the decision was absolutely awful. The conference elected to leave the tournament at 12 teams, causing four teams to be left at home with the league's automatic bid on the line. While the league may not have had a better alternative available, that decision eliminates a significant amount of excitement and, worst of all, the hopes and dreams of four teams and their fans.

Listen, the Big East is stuck on this one. It is tough to have a 16-team tournament, because every single team would have to play four games to win the title. As it stands now, four teams only have to play three games to win it all, with the other eight slugging it out on the first day.

Trying to get an arena and scheduling eight games in a single day, to be followed by four games the next day, would be a logistical nightmare, and it would be exhausting for all involved. The two finalists would be whipped before the NCAA Tournament, and the league could be hurt by that.

That being said, I just don't see how you can leave four teams out of the mix for an automatic bid, and relegate so many coaches, players and fans to some scrap heap of mediocrity.

His conclusion:

It isn't fair and it isn't right, but that's the way it is. We had better get used to it.

As a life-long Syracuse and Big East fan, I am simply no longer sure I like the direction the conference is headed. Originally, I was thrilled by the decision to get rid of three non-competitive basketball schools (Miami, VT, and BC) and to make up for that loss by adding in four top-notch basketball teams (Louisville, Cincy, Marquette, and Depaul), but now I am having second thoughts (Note: that the Big East also added Southern Florida..so its net gain was two teams).

A drastically unbalanced regular season schedule designed specifically for TV purposes seems like a nightmare. Additioanlly, it is going destroy a lot of 20 year-old rivalry games. Syracuse vs. Georgetown, Syracuse vs. Seton Hall, Syracuse vs. St.Johns…all those old rivalry games are going to suffer. Wouldn't the Big East be better off creating a modified two-division structure? Or a three-division structure? Something based on the idea that you played everyone inside your division (your rivals) twice and everyone outside of your division once? (Note: thanks to 'Old School Hoops' for pointing out that a straight up two-division structure would require a 22-regular season games.) Multiple-Division formats are always somewhat uneven, but at least they are consistent. Or, alternatively, wouldn't the Big East be better off acting like the Big Ten and randomly deciding which teams play twice...so that at least the unbalanced schedule is left to chance? I may even go so far as to suggest that at this point isn't it possible the Big East might be better off being two conferences instead of one?

If the Big-East loses its automatic birth in the BCS and Big-East football revenues decrease significantly, I think the Big-East might soon split in two or at least see a large number of defections/relocations by its top schools.