August 29, 2010

Should Big East's double-bye go bye-bye?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We have two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Despite entreaties from coaches to change the format, the Big East is going to stick with a 16-team tourney, which means the top four teams get double-byes. Your thoughts on the Big East tourney?

David Fox's answer:
The format isn't ideal, but how else can a 16-team conference tournament be settled fairly? Setting up the Big East tournament like a NCAA tournament bracket would be a logistical nightmare, and it seems unfair to "reward" the top seeds in the Big East with more opportunities to lose. Limiting the tournament to 12 teams isn't fair, either. If coaches are concerned about the difference between Nos. 4 and 8, the gap between Nos. 12 and 13 is even smaller, proven by the No. 13 seed's wins in the first round the past two seasons. I'd keep the format the way it is. In general, we know the top four seeds in the Big East tournament are good, and they will be seeded appropriately in the NCAA tourney. Nos. 5 through 8 may have a beef because of the unbalanced schedule, but I've seen no evidence that it has hurt any team's NCAA tournament's status. If anything, the games between the Nos. 9 through 16 seeds weed out bubble teams that shouldn't be in the tournament at all.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I don't like the double-bye system, but the Big East is stuck in a way. League officials want all 16 teams involved in the event, which is fine. They also want to reward teams that had strong regular seasons, and that's fine, too. But the problem comes when divvying up byes. If you want to give an extra reward to the teams that finished in the top four, then the double-bye is the most manageable system. You can't just give the top four byes and no one else; the math doesn't work that way. And if you want to give just one round of byes, then you'd have to give them to the teams that finished first through eighth, and that's ludicrous. They also could eliminate the bye and play it like a 16-team NCAA bracket, but that doesn't appear to be an option.

Jason King's answer:
I'm not a big fan of the double-bye system because I think the lower-seeded teams have an unfair advantage by getting to play early. As a result, the top four seeds end up playing their first game against an opponent that has rid itself of any jitters and found a groove on the Madison Square Garden court. The proof of this came last spring, when three of the top four seeds (Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Villanova) lost their opening-round games. Coaches voted 16-0 in favor of dumping the double-bye format and switching to a more traditional, NCAA tournament-like bracket. But it apparently didn't do any good.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't have a problem with the double-bye system. I know the format has received plenty of criticism because teams that receive the double-bye can get rusty. But the fact of the matter is that in each of the two seasons that this plan has been in force, a team that received two byes (Louisville in 2009, West Virginia in 2010) went on to win the tournament. And if this format does produce more quarterfinal upsets, that's probably good for the Big East because it could help the conference send more teams to the NCAA tournament. Consider that the Big East teams seeded in the 6-11 range are the ones most likely to head into the Big East tournament needing quality wins to impress the NCAA selection committee. A quarterfinal upset of a top-four seed coming off a double-bye is just what those bubble teams might need to earn an NCAA bid.

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