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Sports

Big East Looks At Future Of Conference Tournament

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(Credit:  Frank Franklin II,  AP Photo)

(Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP Photo)

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By JOHN KEKIS, AP Sports Writer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ The Big East again brought every team to
Madison Square Garden for the conference tournament in March, and
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says that’s the right move no matter how
many teams are in the league.

TCU agreed in November to join the Big East, a move that will
give the conference nine football-playing members and 17 in
basketball, with more expansion likely.

“We’re going to make a strong push as coaches to bring all 17
teams to New York,” Boeheim said Thursday. “Connecticut proved
you can win five games. We’ve won four games. It’s very doable.”

Boeheim, who has been a proponent of expanding the field for the
NCAA tournament, said depriving any student-athlete of a trip to
New York City and a chance to play in the postseason is simply
wrong. Prior to 2009, only the top 12 teams in the conference
competed in the Big East tournament.

“I don’t think you can have a viable league and have 12 groups
of players come to New York and the other five sit home,” Boeheim
said. “I don’t think that’s good for the league, the players, or
the fans of any programs to not to go to the Big East tournament.

“Every team deserves, every player deserves, to play in the
league tournament, and that can be worked out. And I’m fairly
confident that will be worked out.”

Connecticut was the No. 9 seed at the Garden in March, and not
only won the tournament, but also the national championship. The
Huskies started their scintillating postseason run by beating No.
16 DePaul in the first game of the Big East.

Boeheim said if the Big East adds even more teams in the future,
he doesn’t see it having a negative effect on the quality of
basketball.

“We had 11 teams in the (NCAA) tournament this year. Those
schools are still going to be good no matter who comes in,”
Boeheim said. “I think some of the teams that didn’t get in this
year are getting better, watching their recruiting, so I think
you’re always going to have 10 or 12– at least –good teams, no
matter what the number of teams in our league turns out to be. That
will be more good teams than any other league has.

“We’re always going to have a good basketball league. Whatever
happens, we’ll make the adjustment and we’ll have a good league.
That’s the bottom line.”

The Big East was formed in 1979 with seven teams and Villanova
joined the following year. It’s become a behemoth since, but
there’s no questioning its prowess in basketball at this juncture.

“We’re probably in the most powerful position as a conference
that we’ve ever been in with basketball, and just a few years ago
they said, ‘Well, you’re not going to be able to be good because of
all this expansion’,” Boeheim said. “And here we are, four or
five years later, and our basketball league is better than it’s
ever been. I don’t see anything that can happen that’s going to
change that.”

UConn coach Jim Calhoun said recently that he thinks the league
might split at some point down the road, with the football schools
and several basketball schools going their separate ways.
Boeheim isn’t so sure.

“I think that’s really far-fetched,” he said. “I’m not sure
that’s going to happen. Anything’s possible, but there’s absolutely
no talk about that right now, I know that for sure.”

     (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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