Proposed Changes to Big East Tournament Format

Jim Boeheim may get some traction for proposed changes to Big East Tournament formatJim Boeheim isn’t just a legendary basketball coach, apparently, he’s also psychic.Before the Big East Tournament began, Syracuse’s Hall of Fame coach proposed changing the format because he felt teams that played Wednesday had a distinct advantage over the top four seeds, which earned double-byes into the quarters.”It’s a huge advantage. Huge,” he said again Thursday after his top-seeded Orange and its 2-3 zone defense were efficiently dissected by eighth-seeded Georgetown, 91-84.The loss clearly didn’t sit well with Boeheim, but it gave him more ammo in his battle against the format.”I wanted everybody to play four games,” Boeheim said. “It’s the right way to do it and everybody agreed to it last year, but a couple coaches changed their minds and screwed it up because they were going to be good and didn’t want to jeopardize their seeding with an upset loss to a bad team.”It was the right way to do it. For the first four, the advantage is that you play Tuesday and you rest your players Wednesday. Now, you have three games. Same old way. Plus, you’re playing 16. If you can’t beat 16, you shouldn’t be in it.”I mean, what kind of conference are we playing in? The league is supposed to revisit this in May but they’re holding out for more TV money if the No. 1 team has to play Tuesday. What’s that? A couple hundred thousand dollars per school? What’s that mean?”Georgetown looked as if it had gotten the rust out of its system Wednesday with a first-round blowout of South Florida. So did Marquette, which beat St. John’s in a close game Wednesday, then upset fourth-seeded and 10th-ranked Villanova, 80-76, in the second game of Thursday afternoon quarterfinal session. Pittsburgh, the tournament’s No.2 seed and another double-bye recipient, fell, 50-45, to seventh seed Notre Dame Thursday night.Are we sensing a trend here? Or is this just life in the Big East?Last year, teams that played in second-round games on Wednesday were 2-2 against those that hadn’t played in five days.In contrast to the Hoyas, Syracuse never found its rhythm, turning the ball over 17 times – 10 in the post alone – and struggling to make enough stops against a good team that got 27 points from guard Chris Wright and utilized Greg Monroe’s inside passing skills and scoring ability to wear the Orange down. Monroe scored nine of his 15 points after Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku went down with a strained right knee when he landed awkwardly while trying to block one of Monroe’s shots.That had to be a jolt to Syracuse fans, who are now thinking the worst on the eve of the NCAA Tournament after Onuaku had to be helped to the locker room. Onuaku will undergo an MRI Friday in Syracuse to determine whether any surgery is necessary.”He says it’s not too bad,” Boeheim said, hoping for the best.Don’t expect any formal announcements until after Selection Sunday. The Orange does not want to compromise its position with the selection committee.In a best-case scenario, Onuaku, who has undergone two previous knee surgeries, may have simply panicked after the fall and will be ready to go once the NCAA Tournament begins next week. Worst case, Syracuse will be down to a six-man rotation and will be more vulnerable than ever to foul trouble.No matter what happens, the Orange still deserves a No. 1 seed, based on its body of work, including the Big East regular-season championship, although Syracuse could be shifted from Houston out to the Salt Lake City Regional if Duke wins the ACC Tournament.The Orange figures to be fine the first weekend too, because Boeheim’s zone will confound most teams that haven’t seen it before. But if Onuaku is anything less than 100%, anything past that will be a crap shoot against the bigger, better teams in the region.”We should be fine once we get away from teams in our league that have played two or three games against us and start playing teams that haven’t seen what we do,” Boeheim said.

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