Big East Sets Format For Next Season

The Big East Conference has formally approved the schedule for next season when Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida join the league. In men's basketball, each school will play 13 teams while 12 teams will compete in the conference championship tournament.

The Presidents of the Big East Conference institutions have approved all recommendations by the league's athletic directors relating to the structure of men's and women's basketball beginning in the 2005-06 academic year. The approvals were made at the Presidents' annual meeting held in Philadelphia on Nov. 9.

The recommendations include maintaining a 12-team postseason conference championship tournament and a one-division regular season structure. The men's and women's teams will continue to play 16-game regular season league schedules.

In 2005-06, the Big East will include 16 schools. The new members will be: University of Cincinnati, DePaul University, University of Louisville, Marquette University and University of South Florida.

While the tournament format will be the same for the men and women, the formula for regular season scheduling will be different. The men's teams will play 13 opponents with three repeat matchups to reach 16 league games. The women's teams will meet each opponent once and have one repeat opponent.

"There are several reasons why we wanted to keep our 12-team structure for our basketball conference championships." said Commissioner Michael Tranghese. "The bottom line is we want to help our best teams prepare for success in the NCAA Tournament. If we expanded our tournament field to 16 teams, there would be no byes B or rewards B for what's going to be an exciting, but grueling regular season competition."

Big East men's teams have captured the last two NCAA crowns and three of the last six. Big East women's team have won the last five NCAA titles.

"I know some coaches have expressed concern that, with a 16-team league, the NCAA Basketball Committee may be reluctant to invite a large number of at-large teams from one conference," said Tranghese. "As a former chair of that committee, I know it is their charge to choose the most deserving teams to the tournament. I'm confident that the size of our conference will not hurt our chances in any way when it comes time for NCAA Tournament selection."

The Big East conducts its men's championship at Madison Square Garden in New York. The women's championship is played at the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Conn.

"On the men's side, we wanted to keep our championship game on Saturday night," Tranghese added. "If we expanded to a 16-team format, that would mean playing three afternoon doubleheaders during the week and that's not very fan-friendly."

For regular season scheduling, the conference office will determine prior to each season which matchups will be repeated. The factors in making the repeat games will be television, rivalries and geography.

"Our men's and women's teams have different issues as far as scheduling is concerned," added Tranghese. "Through our contract with ESPN, we must provide a particular number of men's regular season rematches. For the women, we now have more television opportunities, primarily through our new agreement with CSTV. We want our repeat matchups to help our television partners and accentuate rivalries."

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