In a move that was widely expected, Big East basketball coaches unanimously recommended doing away with the current "double-bye" basketball tournament during today's league meetings.
The coaches' proposal to the athletic directors - who are expected to approve it on Wednesday - is to play a standard 16-team tournament over five days inside Madison Square Garden. The new tournament would have seeds 1-4 playing against seeds 13-16 on Tuesday, with seeds 5-12 playing their first round games a day later. The eight first-round victors would then duke it out for the title on Thursday-Saturday.
The Big East last altered the tournament in 2008 when it made the move to include all 16 teams and grant seeds 1-4 an automatic "double bye" into the quarterfinals. In the two years that the system has been in place, five of the eight teams to receive double byes have lost their opening round game.
"I'm not for the double bye," Rick Pitino recently told AOL Fanhouse. "It doesn't keep you sharp enough. I think they [a lot of other coaches] think that also. It could change. I would like it to change."
The major issue, I think, with the current format is that it doesn't reward the top four teams in the league enough. The common thought is that the teams that have already won a game or two inside the Garden have the advantage over the team that is taking the floor for the first time.
That being said, I'm not sure that this is much more of a reward. To win the Big East title, the teams that finish first through fourth during the regular season are now not only being asked to win three games in three days, but a fourth game on Tuesday. If there was concern about playing on three straight days the weekend before the NCAA Tournament then I can't imagine there not being concern about playing four games over five days the week before the NCAA Tournament.
The big winner in this format is the teams that finish 13-16. Not only do they no longer have to win on five consecutive days to make the NCAA Tournament, but if they manage to spring a first round upset they now get a day off before taking the floor in the quarterfinals. Seeing as how the difference between teams 3-6 in the Big East is rarely discernible, you'd now be much better off finishing 13th in the league than 11th.
I'm not sure what the best tournament format is, but I don't think there's any question that this change would be an improvement for the fans. The opening two days in the Big Apple for the past couple of years have been pretty hard to get into. With this format, you've got the big boys taking the floor on day one (massive upset potential), the bubble teams that probably need at least one victory to secure an at-large bid doing battle the next day (high drama), and then the same tremendous 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds on Thursday-Saturday.
Perfect? No. An improvement for us, the fans? Yes.