Awesome news for college basketball junkies and Stan Heath, as the Big East announced Tuesday that all 16 teams will advance to the conference tournament beginning in 2009.
The tournament, held annually at Madison Square Garden, will begin one day earlier with the No. 9 seed playing the No. 16 seed, the No. 10 seed playing the No. 15 seed, the No. 11 seed playing the No. 14 seed, and the No. 12 seed playing the No. 13 seed. Day two will see the day one winners advance to play seeds 5-8. The winner of the 9/16 game will play No. 8, the winner of the 10/15 game will play No. 7, the winner of the 11/14 game will play No. 6 and the winner of the 12/13 game will play No. 15. After that the tournament will play out the same way it has in previous years, with the top four seeds beginning play in the quarterfinals.
I'm as big a fan of seeing four Big East tournament games on three straight days as anyone (I'm starting to feel all fuzzy just thinking about it), but it seems just a tad extreme that the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds - squads that could very easily be on the NCAA Tournament bubble - would have to win five games in five days to capture the tourney title. At the same time, if a team on the bubble were to advance to the semifinals by knocking off a pair of lower seeded teams, then they probably would have already done enough to earn their ticket to the dance regardless of how they performed on Friday or Saturday.
Can you imagine what Gerry McNamara would have looked like in the '05 championship game if he'd been carrying Syracuse on his back since that Tuesday?
While there are certainly adequate arguments to be made against this move, I'm for the expansion for two reasons: 1) It greatly reduces conflict over conference strength of schedule. If Seton Hall's mirror games end up being considerably harder than Depaul's, they can no longer be left out of the postseason as a result. And 2) More basketball. I will accomplish absolutely nothing from that Tuesday through that Saturday for the rest of my life.
My apologies future employers.