Hard non-conference scheduling choices in the future 18-team Big East

Our friends at VU Hoops noted an interesting nugget from Andy Katz' daily three-point shot that we hadn't seen anywhere else: the Big East conference schedule might expand to 20 games. This will affect St. John's - and all Big East teams' - scheduling decisions.

The nugget came up in Andy Katz' discussion with Georgetown head coach John Thompson:

...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.

No official announcement has been made from the Big East on the length of the basketball conference season once Temple, Memphis, Central Florida, Southern Methodist, and Houston enter the basketball league. But hearing a coach discuss a 20-game schedule means that the configuration - and the tough decisions that come with it - is definitely on the table.

The new Big East

Asterisks for the new teams.

University of Cincinnati
University of Connecticut
DePaul University
Georgetown University
University of Louisville
Marquette University
University of Notre Dame
Providence College
Rutgers University
Seton Hall University
St. John's University
Villanova University
University of South Florida
*University of Central Florida
*University of Houston
*University of Memphis
*Southern Methodist University
*Temple University

With an 18 team Big East (see list of teams on the left), a 20 games means that each team could face the other 17 once, with room for three mirror opponents - room for beloved old rivalries, and room for teams expected to be battling each other at the same position in the standings.*

20 games - an increase from the current schedule of 18 games - also means that schools will have less leeway for non-conference matchups. The Johnnies had 13 non-conference games scheduled, with a mix of low-level teams for practice, marquee non-conference matchups, and an exempt tournament.

A school can schedule up to 27 games outside of those tournaments. Last year, for example, Lehigh and William & Mary counted as part of the Coaches vs Cancer tournament. With the two Madison Square Garden games, that was four games on top of the regularly-scheduled 27.

With 20 conference games, that leaves about 7 non-conference matchups. Given the difficulty of Big East play, will Big East teams want multiple tough non-conference games?

It'll be a tug-of-war between testing out the whole rotation with easier opponents and playing opponents that require a top-level effort to pull out the win. And it'll be a decision between giving fans a chance to see their teams play the best vs building the team's confidence... and win record.

Conference expansion is a reason the Red Storm and the Duke Blue Devils won't meet this year. With the ACC going from 16 to 18 conference games this year, the Blue Devils requested a hiatus on the series. Though Duke is not on St. John's non-conference schedule for the first time since the 1997-98 season, all signs point to the Duke/ Red Storm tilt returning.

The game makes a lot of sense for both parties - big draw, big media attention, two historic college basketball venues.

Still, the incorporation of new basketball members means changes to the schedule will come.

*or inexplicably, Cincinnati.

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