The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

A six-round Big East tournament is at least one round too many

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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DePaul and UConn battle in an opening-round Big East tournament game last season (AP)

If Big East coaches and administrators manage to persuade league officials to allow all 18 teams to participate in the conference tournament in 2014, then here's my suggestion for what to call the play-in round.

Cruel and unusual punishment.

What else would you call an evening of basketball featuring four miserable teams with no postseason hopes playing in an arena so empty instructions from the bench are audible in the nose-bleed seats?

Nobody needs that scenario, and yet it's one of the options Big East officials will weigh this week at their annual meeting as they decide how to reformat the conference tournament once five new teams join the league in 2013. Expansion and the impending defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia already will water down the nation's premier conference tournament, but the early rounds could become an even bigger snooze if the league adds an extra day to remain all-inclusive.

Imagine a Monday night doubleheader at Madison Square Garden featuring 15th-seeded DePaul versus 18th-seeded Central Florida and No. 16 South Florida facing No. 17 SMU. Anyone scrambling to buy tickets to those matchups? The league might not fill 2,500 seats if it let fans in free and handed out 99-cent hotdogs and beers.

The motivation of the coaches and athletic directors to add an additional round to the tournament is mostly selfish. They believe an all-inclusive tournament doesn't give impatient administrators an extra excuse to clean house, but the costs of that decision would outweigh the benefits.

In Little League or youth soccer, every kid gets a participation trophy so they feel included at the end of the season. Let's not try to pretend big-time college basketball should be governed by the same set of principles.

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