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New York City "Big Five" tournament?

The New York Daily News' brings up a proposal that has bounced around the media for a bit - a NYC-area centered tournament, a la the Big Five, where local squads play for bragging rights. Some quotes from local coaches, and a look at how it could work, below the fold."

Manhattan College Head Coach Barry Rohrssen:

"Being a New Yorker, being a metropolitan area basketball guy, understanding what this area means and keeping kids home, keeping kids in New Jersey and New York, and all the great high school programs that are all within a softball toss away, from St. Anthony's, St. Pat's, St. Benedict's, Seton Hall Prep, Mount Vernon, the Catholic school league, we're able to put some attractive games and packages together and tournaments. Maybe that helps keep some of the great local high school talent right here in this metropolitan area where it belongs."

Iona Head Coach Kevin Willard:

"But I think it's something that's gained a little momentum within the schools. I think it's stupid for us to go play outside New York when there are so many great schools right here in New York. They all have local guys, they all have local fans. St. John's has always had the Holiday Festival, but I'd like to see something like that turn into where it's like the Big Five in Philly. They have great games and great crowds. Turn it into something like that. Keep doing a round robin (tournament). I think we'd get great crowds and you'd get television exposure. It's something we've all talked about and now it's a question of how do we make it happen and I think you need someone smarter than basketball coaches to do that."

I think it's a fantastic idea; even if the Philly schools in the Big 5 are of much better quality and relative parity. LaSalle is the laggard of the group; but St. Joseph's and Temple are high-end A-10 opponents. Pennsylvania is always a competitive group, and Villanova is the highest profile of the teams. Add Drexel (a member of the City 6, which is the Big 5 plus Drexel), and that's a competitive set of games.

New York, of course, provides some logistical problems. To make it inclusive, a committee would have to select:

  • half of the teams from the Metro Athletic, eliminating Loyola (MD), Canisius, Niagara, Siena... and maybe Rider. That's Iona, Manhattan, Fairfield, Marist, St. Peter's (5 teams);
  • from the NEC, Long Island U, St. Francis (NY), Sacred Heart, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Quinnipiac, and Wagner (7);
  • from the Atlantic 10, Fordham (1);
  • from the America East, Stony Brook (perhaps) (1);
  • from the Colonial Athletic, Hofstra (1);
  • from the Big East, St. John's, Rutgers, and Seton Hall (3).

That's 18 teams! I forgot

  • from the Ivy League, Columbia and possibly Yale (2).

And those additions bring the number to a cool 20.

Now, it is possible to cull the list and take the schools with the stronger basketball programs - but immediately, that adds a level of favoritism to the proceedings. Fordham Rose Hill Gym U MassAlready, Rohrssen and Willard indicated that their schools (Manhattan and Iona) are interested, that Columbia and Hofstra are interested, and that they want to get Fordham, St. John's, and Rutgers in the mix. Seton Hall would probably be a good add to the list. Perhaps some elitism would make for a better tournament.

With these 8 teams, one could have a number of individual site games. Or St. John's Holiday Tournament could be expanded to be similar to the preseason bracketed tip off tournaments. Or, as Hoops Weiss pointed out, these teams could participate in a number of doubleheaders.

St. John's seems to like the Holiday Tournament format, which serves as an invitational for the Red Storm. And as their marquee, stand-alone tournament, where the fans are generally going to be Red and White partisans. A mixed tournament would probably require a bigger share of the gate proceeds to other teams; and Madison Square Garden would no longer be the sole province of St. John's. Not that it is now, with Pitt and Duke scheduling games there, and being far better teams.

As well, St. John's plays a number of the lower-level area teams in their non-conference. Those do not help the RPI, but the team is just trying to notch easy-ish wins. For the Red Storm program, joining an area tournament/ rivalry set would probably end with them losing a few of the games until the program is back at elite status. But imagine the competition! Tougher games and better pre-conference tests. Local games that spark interest, even if for a made-up rivalry. Road games a subway ride away? It would spark interest in the team and build local school rivalries. Even if St. John's is rather uncompetitive now.

It would be a tough call for the Big East teams, certainly. They have a little to gain, but none of them are at the level that they can take bad non-conference losses, either for the coaches' job security, for the players' confidence, or for the potential of making the NIT. Of course, the Big East teams should be able to beat the lower-level squads... but last year, Rutgers laid an egg to St. Peter's, and St. John's lost to Niagara. It's a bad loss in an anything-can-happen environment, and it's never a good win, it's an expected victory.