On Wednesday, the Big East made official what we had all suspected: that the Big East tournament would be expanding to include all 18 teams that will be members in the 2013-2014 season.
I’ve already told you that I am not a fan of this particular move.
But that doesn’t mean that every decision that the Big East made at their meetings in Florida this week was a bad one. The Big East will be adjusting the format for their tournament by eliminating the double-bye. The way the bracket is currently structured, the bottom eight seeds play each other on the Tuesday of the tournament, with the winners advancing to play the No. 5-No. 8 seeds and those winners advancing to take on the top four teams.
The new setup will be the standard bracket. The top four seeds will play the bottom four seeds on Tuesday, with No. 1 and No. 2 taking on the winners of the play-in games — No. 15 vs. No. 18 and No. 16 vs. No. 17. On Wednesday, the middle eight teams will play, with the winners advancing to play on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The advantage gained for finishing in the top four in the regular season will be the day off in the middle of the tournament.
Honestly, I like this setup better.
For starters, the top four seeds are generally going to be the teams that draw bigger crowds — Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, etc. Those fans are more likely to attend games on a Tuesday than those of programs finishing in the bottom half of the bracket. It may not be a packed house in the Garden, but I’d be willing to bet that there will be more rear-ends in seats on the first day of the tournament that the current structure.
I also don’t think that there will be a huge risk of an upset on Tuesday. The teams at the bottom of the Big East have not been good since the league expanded to 16 teams, and that was before Houston, Central Florida and SMU were added. Upsets of the top four seeds are fairly rare in the NCAA tournament, and those teams pulling the upsets are at least conference champions. Not teams that can’t avoid finishing in the bottom third of an 18 team conference.
If we’re going to be stuck with 18 teams, this setup is the lesser of two evils.