Big East hoops: All 16 in tourney in '09
Here's a bold guarantee for next season: USF's men's and women's basketball teams will make the Big East tournament.
The Big East announced Wednesday that its presidents had approved a plan to expand the league's postseason basketball tournament from 12 to 16 teams, allowing all of its members to play at Madison Square Garden for the men's tournament, and the Hartford Civic Center for the women. USF's men have missed the cut in their first two years in the league.
The new system sets up two tiers of byes, with the league's bottom eight teams playing on the first day of the tournament. Those four winners then play the teams seeded fifth through eighth -- essentially what is the first day of the tournament under the current format -- with those four winners then facing the top four seeds.
Those byes make the Big East's regular season about as incentive-laden as you can get -- you can earn a day off by finishing in the top eight, and can earn a second day off by finishing in the top four. That means allowing every league team to sell recruits and boosters on playing in the Big East tournament every year, without taxing the league's elite teams with too many games the weekend before the NCAA Tournament starts.
For USF, it makes it all the more of a milestone if the Bulls can get to MSG on their own steam this season, as opposed to having to wait until everybody gets there automatically.