SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Big East again brought every team to Madison Square Garden for the conference tournament in March, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says that's the right move no matter how many teams are in the league.
TCU agreed in November to join the Big East, a move that will give the conference nine football-playing members and 17 in basketball, with more expansion likely.
"We're going to make a strong push as coaches to bring all 17 teams to New York," Boeheim said Thursday. "Connecticut proved you can win five games. We've won four games. It's very doable."
Boeheim, who has been a proponent of expanding the field for the NCAA tournament, said depriving any student-athlete of a trip to New York City and a chance to play in the postseason is simply wrong. Prior to 2009, only the top 12 teams in the conference competed in the Big East tournament.
"I don't think you can have a viable league and have 12 groups of players come to New York and the other five sit home," Boeheim said. "I don't think that's good for the league, the players, or the fans of any programs to not to go to the Big East tournament.
"Every team deserves, every player deserves, to play in the league tournament, and that can be worked out. And I'm fairly confident that will be worked out."
Connecticut was the No. 9 seed at the Garden in March, and not only won the tournament, but also the national championship. The Huskies started their scintillating postseason run by beating No. 16 DePaul in the first game of the Big East.
Boeheim said if the Big East adds even more teams in the future, he doesn't see it having a negative effect on the quality of basketball.
"We had 11 teams in the (NCAA) tournament this year. Those schools are still going to be good no matter who comes in," Boeheim said. "I think some of the teams that didn't get in this year are getting better, watching their recruiting, so I think you're always going to have 10 or 12 — at least — good teams, no matter what the number of teams in our league turns out to be. That will be more good teams than any other league has.
"We're always going to have a good basketball league. Whatever happens, we'll make the adjustment and we'll have a good league. That's the bottom line."
The Big East was formed in 1979 with seven teams and Villanova joined the following year. It's become a behemoth since, but there's no questioning its prowess in basketball at this juncture.
"We're probably in the most powerful position as a conference that we've ever been in with basketball, and just a few years ago they said, 'Well, you're not going to be able to be good because of all this expansion'," Boeheim said. "And here we are, four or five years later, and our basketball league is better than it's ever been. I don't see anything that can happen that's going to change that."
UConn coach Jim Calhoun said recently that he thinks the league might split at some point down the road, with the football schools and several basketball schools going their separate ways.
Boeheim isn't so sure.
"I think that's really far-fetched," he said. "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."