The Big East basketball league is expanding and so, apparently is its regular season. In 2013-14, a year from now, the league will have 18 basketball-playing members and in order to accommodate the expansion without giving up home-and-home series or splitting into divisions where teams from opposite sides may never play each other, it seems that an expansion of the regular season schedule might be on the front-burner.
Georgetown's John Thompson III told ESPN that he believed that a 20-game Big East schedule was on the way, though it isn't official just yet. That move would eliminate two more non-conference games from every league member's schedule, which would put a strain on everyone's current non-conference scheduling strategies.
Asked about resuming the Georgetown/Syracuse rivalry as a non-conference game, Thompson told ESPN:
He did say the tough decision for the Hoyas and other Big East schools will be how to handle nonconference games when the Big East likely goes to 20 conference games in 2013-14 when there are 18 league members. Thompson said he expects the league to move to 20 games and that means schools like Georgetown will have to decide does it participate in a neutral site event or two, or choose a home-and-home series. A Syracuse nonconference game would fall in the latter category.
This move would allow the conference to maintain the current arrangement where each team plays every other school at least once during the season -- which will now be 17 different opponents. With 18 games, that could still be possible, but each team would only be able to have one home-and-home series against a conference opponent, which would either have to be a primary rivalry or it would rotate. In either case, athletic departments in the conference are likely to be unsatisfied.
A 20-game schedule, however, would allow the Big East to continue having three home-and-home opponents for each school (which is based on the "tier" the coaches rank you in, with top-4 schools playing each other, etc.).
The potential losers are major non-conference opponents, however, as win-hungry programs are unlikely to stop scheduling teams from lesser conferences to pick up easy victories early in the season as they work out their kinks. The Big East/SEC Challenge could even become a victim of the new scheduling realities. So long as these teams keep competing for a large number of NCAA Tournament slots, however, it will be a good result for the conference generally.