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How should the Big East handle this?

Big East teams are already losing games and conference play has just started. What should the Big East do?

NCAA Basketball: St. Peter’s at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier has lost two games in the upcoming week. Two years ago, that would have been unprecedented and utterly shocking. Something disastrous would have had to happen. Now, at the very tale end of 2021 after nearly two years of pandemic, it seems almost normal. St. John’s, DePaul, Seton Hall, Butler, and Georgetown all still show at 0-0 in the official Big East standings. Two weeks in, it’s already a mess.

Last year it remained a mess. Schools were responsible for the rescheduling and coaches, rightly or wrongly, picked and chose the games that benefited them. Xavier never played Villanova because it wasn’t profitable for Nova to play X by the time they could have. This season the Big East has taken over the rescheduling of games.

That leaves the Big East in a quandary. Games have to be played, but they can’t all be played at the same time. Teams need to meet each other, but Covid positives aren’t really discriminating in which programs have to shut down. Teams need to play, but several are already at their game limit and can’t add non-conference games.

The guidelines, parsed here from a very handy com interview with Seton Hall AD Bryan Felt, are as follows:

  • The conference has full authority to reschedule, which is a change from last season, when schools took the lead while working with the league.
  • Teams cannot play three games in a week in back-to-back weeks. If there is a three-game week, the following week maxes out at two games.
  • Teams cannot play games on back-to-back days.
  • Arena availability will be low on the list factors. Most Big East schools play at least some home games in arenas they do not own. Concerts and other events dot the calendars. Some schools, like Seton Hall, are secondary tenants to professional sports teams.
  • The Big East’s television partner, Fox Sports, will have a significant hand in the process.
  • The pecking order for rescheduling is chronological.

What does all of that mean? First off, no more game dodging from teams that just don’t want to risk a bad loss. That means that X can’t duck their game Feb 2nd home game with Butler or either meeting with Georgetown just because both are resume poison this year.

That also means that just swapping in a team like Creighton or Marquette that is also losing games is a more difficult proposition. With games being rescheduled and not just forfeited or cancelled, the conference is essentially condensing a 20 game schedule into maybe ten weeks. Just flipping things around to meet an issue now could cause a domino effect in late February (or whenever) that could cause more problems down the road. The conference has to be very circumspect.

That rescheduling also means that programs can’t just go out and find games. Xavier is still technically scheduled for 31 games, their max. They can’t add a non-conference game because they have already played 11 and there are still 20 conference games “scheduled” to be played. That means that as it stands Xavier has a 17 day break between games and no real way to fit something in there.

Last season Xavier also had a 20 day break between games. When they came back they went 2-5 and threw away a promising season. Right now, they stand on the edge of the same precipice. The team is practicing together, but there is no shape like game shape. It’s up to the Big East to solve this problem, and fast.

We talked about the scheduling mess and a whole lot more in our latest podcast