How big is too big for a tournament?

Jeremy Hazell and No. 12 Seton Hall lost to a lower-seeded Rutgers team yesterday in overtime.

The expanded Big East tournament is supposed to make room for the little guy. But is that necessary in a power conference dominated by so many big boys?

The Big East brass, three years into its decision to include all 16 teams in its postseason tourney, has yet to see a squad seeded 13 or lower advance to the quarterfinals. The chances look grim again considering the top 11 seeds are primed for NCAA tournament spots.

The conference has hyped up the five-day event as being “for the fans,” but MSG was strangely silent for the better part of the opening round. The players were off-rhythm, yawning spectators were downing more coffee than beer and even the cheerleaders took a tumble on the hardwood.

“If that’s what they want to do, that’s what they’re going to do,” West Virginia forward Kevin Jones said. “Gives some teams a chance to get a couple wins … but seems like higher [seeds] always win anyways, so what’s the point?”

Well, more games obviously mean more money, but they could also mean less prestige. Middle-tier teams forced to play an often meaningless extra game in the conference tournament may not be as fresh once the Big Dance rolls around. Or even worse, they might not be dancing at all. Such was the case last season, with No. 11 Cincinnati. The Bearcats won a throwaway game against Rutgers, then beat Louisville before falling short to eventual champ West Virginia. They wound up in the NIT.

“Had we played just a back-to-back, rather than three straight games, yeah, it might have been a different outcome,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said.



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