Big East should say no to 18-team tourney

May, 24, 2012
If two teams play at Madison Square Garden and no one is there to witness it, did the games actually occur?

That will be the quandary the Big East faces in 2014 if the league listens to the pleas of its basketball coaches and allows everyone into the conference tournament.

The Big East is convening this week in Florida and included in its crowded agenda, the conference is trying to hash out its future hoops tourneys. Next season it will actually shrink -- there will be 15 members of the Big East, but UConn, due to its APR punishment won’t be able to participate, so that’s a manageable 14-team membership.

[+] EnlargeLarry Brown
AP Photo/Michael Prengler/Cal Sports MediaWould an 18-team Big East tourney be beneficial for league coaches like SMU's Larry Brown?
But in 2014, the conference swells to 18 and the coaches already are pushing to
continue its all-inclusive tournament.

And so on Monday night, the Garden would swing open its doors to … SMU versus Central Florida and DePaul versus Houston for a play-in game.

Would they sell tickets for that or just give Larry Brown and Oliver Purnell sandwich boards and bells and let them hand out tickets to unsuspecting tourists strolling down 8th Avenue?

We’re all crying uncle here, so please stop.

Big East basketball already has watered down its product to an unrecognizable glob of mush. Let’s not roll the tournament into the sewer, too.

We have endured the Tuesday night warm-up games for a few years now and while fans haven’t left putting needles in their eyes, they haven’t exactly been disappointed when the buzzer mercifully sounds.

But now we’re talking about actual play-in games. Chances are, you’ll see teams with abominable records whose only hope at the postseason is a national pandemic that afflicts only the top 100 basketball rosters in the country.

To paraphrase my friend, longtime Associated Press writer Jack Scheuer, it would be guaranteed VVVB hoops (very, very, very bad).

Worse, there is even a worry that the Garden might not be able to extend its commitment to Monday. The current contract does not give the league access until Tuesday and would consequently have to be renegotiated. If it couldn’t be, the games would have to be played somewhere in the New York area.

What in heavens’ name is the point of that?

A play-in game to make your conference tournament, played at some random outpost that looks like New York but isn’t quite New York.

They can call it the Hoboken Opening Round.

Coaches long have argued that teams deserve the right for the "full tournament experience" and that keeping people out of the Big East tournament only gives itchy trigger-fingered administrators cause to fire a coach who can’t get his team to New York.

Because finishing 18th out of 18 apparently merits a pay raise.

Sorry, this isn’t pee-wee rec ball. Not everyone gets a trophy. Not everyone gets to play.

Besides, if you play a Big East tournament game and no one is there to see it, were you really there in the first place?

Dana O'Neil | email

College Basketball

Big East, Smu



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