Since the conference expanded to 16 teams, the Big East has used a rather unique system in scheduling its conference tournament. Under that system, the top four seeds, as decided by the regular season, receive double-byes in the Big East tournament; the rest of the conference has to play one or two games, depending on seed, to get to the quarterfinals and face one of those top four seeds. If this seems confusing, that's because it is. It helps to look at the bracket itself. See?
That confusion might be a thing of the past. The Big East is considering ditching the format and creating a straight-up 16-team tournament seeded equally from top to bottom. Why the change? Coaches don't like it:
"I'm not for the double bye," [Louisville coach Rick] Pitino said. "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." Dan Gavitt, the Big East's associate commissioner for basketball, said the tournament format "definitely" will be discussed at the spring meetings next week. Like Pitino, he believes a majority of the coaches want to ditch the double-bye format, but the change must be formally approved by the league's athletic directors or presidents.
There are two reasons coaches wouldn't like this format. One reason matches Pitino's: Coaches of the top teams in the league probably don't see the double bye as an advantage. Instead, they see it as a brief interlude in their season, the type of mental and physical break that can grant your team much-needed rest but also -- as Pitino apparently thinks -- tighten it up at the most inopportune time.
The other reason is that coaches who aren't one of those top four seeds probably see it as unfair. Going into the tournament, Nos. 1-4 already have plenty of built-in advantages over, say, South Florida. Why should the Bulls have to win two games just to get a crack at an upset? It stands to reason that if both the haves and have-nots are against the double bye, it won't last much longer. (Yes, the athletic directors and presidents have to vote on it, but this is the kind of vote coaches will have plenty of influence over.)
The one question for those coaches, especially those at the top of the pile, is what format the Big East should institute instead. If the conference does a straight-up seed, and the No. 1 seed plays the No. 16 seed, and every team has to play the same number of games to win the tournament, then those top teams could play four conference tournament games to the rest of the power-six's three. Is that a big deal? Maybe not. But if the double bye is a disadvantage, so is an extra game, right?
Even so, it would be an improvement from the current system, which is far more complicated than any single-elimination basketball tournament should ever be. Hoops brackets are like visual design: Simplicity is elegance.