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Big East changes basketball tournament format, says goodbye to byes

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Hearts will still be broken in Madison Square Garden, but it will happen without byes of five-games-in-five-days miracle runs.
Hearts will still be broken in Madison Square Garden, but it will happen without byes of five-games-in-five-days miracle runs.

With expansion on the horizon, the Big East has announced a new format for its basketball championship starting in the 2013-14 season. At that point the conference is expecting to have 18 teams (how realistic that expectation is is another matter), so the current double-bye format would not be able to accommodate every team.

All 18 of the conference's teams will be invited to the tournament in New York, though they may not all make it to Madison Square Garden. The bottom four teams will play in play-in games on Monday of the tournament week at a yet-to-be determined site in the New York area. MSG will be considered, but it seems doubtful unless you think a Monday night matchup between SMU and DePaul is going to move a lot of tickets.

The conference's top seeds will no longer receive byes, so the two play-in game winners will then be slotted into a traditional 16-team bracket. The 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds will play their opponents on Tuesday and then get a day to rest while the 5, 6, 7 and 8 seeds have their games on Wednesday. The advancing teams would all meet on Thursday and play the tournament out as usual.

You have to imagine teams will still want to finish in the top four to get a little extra boost in the tournament, but this removes any bonus for finishing between 5-8 in the league (up until now those teams got single byes). Hopefully those Monday games won't feature UConn anytime soon, but you know some legacy Big East team is going to get stuck there and it will be hilarious.

Perhaps most important for UConn fans: the format change will make it impossible to win five games and five days (and make playing five games impossible for all but the worst Big East teams), so unless someone goes on a miracle run next year the achievements of the 2011 team are going to be cemented in history.