Notre Dame women's basketball: Big East coaches study 18-team tourney for 2015
Planning ahead for an 18-team league was the main issue at the Big East women's basketball meetings last week.
"The main thing we talked about was how we're going to run the tournament when the new teams come in," Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw said. "We decided that we're going to include all 18 teams. We're looking at having some kind of play-in game for 15-18, and then having the tournament run the same way we run it now, with the top four teams getting the bye."
That means nearly a week of basketball for the Big East tournament. The league had 16 teams in last season's tournament, and games were played over five days in Hartford, Conn.
Now, the league will have to have six days for its tournament. McGraw said that the league is considering having the play-in games at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and then moving to the XL Center in Hartford.
"That was unanimous and the athletic directors approved it," McGraw said of an 18-team tournament in the future.
McGraw's advice to teams looking at a daunting challenge of having to win six games to win the Big East's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament: "Don't finish 15-through-18," she joked.
McGraw knows that the tournament schedule presents the potential for a grinding week, but said that the coaches were in agreement that all of the member schools should be included.
"We think it's the right thing to do," McGraw said. "You're in the Big East, we want that opportunity to play in a conference tournament and get to the NCAA tournament available to all student-athletes. Otherwise, your season could be over in January. You could get off to a bad start, and then you don't have a chance. This gives you a chance to keep your hope alive."
Quiet league meetings
Unlike last year, the Big East meetings didn't focus on the shifting landscape in college athletics and the conference realignment.
Even though rumors were flying about Notre Dame and the Big 12 last week, McGraw said that nothing was discussed by the coaches about who is leaving, who might be leaving, and who could be coming into the Big
"It was interesting, because there wasn't any talk about the uncertainty the league faces," McGraw said.
McGraw dismissed the rumors about the Irish.
"We're happy where we're at, in the Big East Conference," McGraw said. "I trust the vision and direction of our administration."
Among the issues discussed at the Big East meetings for women's basketball as the location of the tournament.
Hartford will host next season's tournament, making it 10 straight years of playing on one of Connecticut's home courts (the Huskies also play home games on campus in Storrs).