Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Big East Needs Some Fixin'



I'll be the first to admit that, after some early objections, I came around on the newly expanded Big East as the season went on. Though initially opposed to conference expansion reaching such ridiculous levels, the gluttony of attractive matches slowly swayed me. I'm fickle.

That said, with the Big East tourney starting today in the Garden, I thought I'd offer a few suggestions to make the conference a bit more smoothly run:

1) First and foremost, every team must meet at least once. It's ludicrous that certain teams played twice this season while others didn't play at all. How can the standings be taken seriously under this arrangement?

2) Divide the league into two division, essentially East and West. Although the exact arrangement of the divisions here isn't set in stone, something like this would be workable...

EAST
UConn, Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Rutgers, St. John's, Providence

West
Louisville, DePaul, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Marquette, Notre Dame, South Florida

3) Balance the schedule.

The schedule could consist of 18 games. Teams would play everyone in their division twice for a total of 14, while also playing four teams from the other division. The inter-divisional games would be, just as in the NFL, weighted according to the previous year's standings. For instance, next season in the East, UConn would play a tougher set of four West division teams than, say, Providence.

4) Everyone gets in the conference tournament.

While it is highly unlikely that the four teams that didn't qualify for this year's tourney - DePaul, St John's, Providence and South Florida - would have done much in the Garden, one of college basketball's great traditions is the opportunity for lesser teams to make one last run to glory via the conference tourney. Nobody should be shut out.

What I would do is allow everybody in and then divide the bracket up according to the divisions. East vs West. In other words, the conference title game would ultimately pit the winner of the East's side of the bracket against the West's winner, sort of like the NFC vs AFC in football.

Like I said, I'm not as opposed to the new mammoth Big East as I was a few months ago. I'm willing to go with the flow and change with the times. That said, there are some major kinks to be worked out.

And I still say a fantastic, and much smaller, conference could be based upon DePaul, Louisville, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Marquette, Memphis and Xavier.

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