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Decision time for the Big East

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, left, talks with Kris

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, left, talks with Kris Joseph (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against St. John's. (Jan. 12, 2011) Credit: AP

Could we see an 18 or even 20-team Big East?

It is certainly a possibility. With the addition of TCU, the Big East will have 17 basketball teams in 2013.

Big East officials have yet to officially announce what the tournament bracket will look like, but’s Andy Katz reported that several conference athletic directors are in favor of bringing just 12 teams to the Garden.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim disagreed.

"We're going to make a strong push as coaches to bring all 17 teams to New York," Boeheim told the Associated Press. "Connecticut proved you can win five games. We've won four games. It's very doable."

The Big East sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2011.

In the grand scheme of things, the difference between 16 or 17 teams is minimal. The question is what happens when/if the Big East adds more football teams to the conference.

TCU will give the conference nine football teams, which means it won’t be long before the Big East tries to add a 10th, 11th and 12th team to allow for a conference championship game. Conference championship games have been all the rage of college football lately. Even the MAC and Conference USA have championship games.

What will that do for Big East basketball? Some believe it could fracture the league, with the football schools and basketball schools going in different directions.

"I think that's really far-fetched," Boeheim told the AP. "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."

Boeheim's opinion nothwithstanding, the Big East will have some tough decisions to make in the next few years. If the conference does expand its football league to 12 teams, will it force some or all of the non-football schools, like Providence, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall or DePaul out?

It's hard to see the Big East pushing St. John's or even DePaul, two long-standing members, out the door.

There's no requirement that Big East basketball teams must play football in the conference. Notre Dame is still an independent, while Georgetown (Patriot League) and Villanova (CAA) play on the FCS level.

It's worth noting that Villanova school officials have been mulling over the idea of upgrading its football program to the FBS level, which could get the ball rolling pretty quickly if a decision is made before the end of the 2011 season. 

No one can accurately predict what direction the Big East will go in, but changes are on the horizon.


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