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Big East's Elimination Of Big Byes Could Be Cause For Big Smiles

Certainly, the Big East Tournament has lived up to its moniker in recent seasons, even though its gigantism made for a tournament with an identity crisis -- tense, must-see basketball on days three through five, and plenty of games no one gave a damn about on days one and two. The reason for said crisis? A double-bye system which required teams finishing in the bottom half of the conference standings to win five games in five days if they wanted to lay claim to the league's automatic berth. According to Brett McMurphy, the conference recognizes there's an issue and will reportedly consider alternative formats during its annual meetings next week:

[Big East associate commissioner Dan] Gavitt said the regular 16-team bracket, without byes, "is probably more fair from top to bottom. We're now [requiring] four teams [in the current format that win on Tuesday] to have to win five games to win the tournament," Gavitt said. "But you do have to consider how it affects the teams for the NCAA tournament the following week."

In the two years that the double-bye format has been in effect, Georgetown has received a single-bye (last season, in which they made a run to the conference final, losing to West Virginia) and has also gotten stuck playing an opening round game (2009, when they lost to St. John's to round out a thoroughly disappointing campaign).

So, can you hear the whining now? A no-bye bracket would likely not sit well with the conference's hoops elite -- which certainly includes the Hoyas -- ma ny of whom would (rightfully) cringe at the thought of having to play five games in five days with only four days until the beginning of the Big Dance to rest up. In general, the conference brass would be wise to figure out a way to appropriately reward teams who make their way through the league's grueling 16-game schedule, lest the teams who have a chance at winning the national title start phoning it in to avoid player fatigue. And let's be fair: a Tuesday afternoon tip between, say, Pittsburgh and Rutgers won't exactly be lighting ESPN's ratings on fire.

Of course, on the flip side, it's hard to not give a big stamp of approval to any potential reform that would eliminate the possibility of any more DePaul-South Florida games where both teams struggle to score in the 50s. Blech.