This past season, national champ Connecticut finished in ninth place in the Big East and had to win five games to claim the conference tournament title.
If the Big East coaches can sway the athletic directors and presidents, the eighth-place finisher will have to pull off a similar feat in the future. A number of athletic directors are in favor of bringing only 12 teams to New York for cost-cutting reasons, according to sources. But there are larger issues at stake for the ADs that might force their hand, like possible expansion beyond 17 teams or at least getting to 10 or more in football with Villanova, Central Florida, Army and Navy all being brought up as possibilities.
The coaches at the annual Big East meetings earlier this week in Florida universally endorsed a proposal to have all 17 teams play at the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in 2013, at which point TCU will be a full member. But the coaches were against a 16 vs. 17 play-in game that would theoretically take place on a campus site or in New York on Monday of conference tourney week.
According to multiple sources in the room, the coaches were in favor of a five-game Tuesday in New York where the teams from eighth to 17th would be matched in a format like this:
17 vs. 8
16 vs. 9
15 vs. 10
14 vs. 11
13 vs. 12
Day 2 of the tournament on Wednesday would have those five winners against teams that finished in fifth through seventh place.
Day 3 of the tournament on Thursday would be the traditional quarterfinals with the top four seeds meeting the winners from Wednesday. The semifinals and finals would remain as is on Friday and Saturday.
The coaches weren’t too concerned about the format of the bracket, but more so about ensuring that all 17 schools (i.e. coaches) have a chance to compete in New York. The Big East invited all 16 teams to the Big East tournament for the first time in 2009.
The presidents will likely decide on the number of teams for the 2013 tournament at their annual meeting this fall.