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Thursday / May 19.
  • Memphis-Houston in Big East Hoops Championship? It Could Happen

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    Memphis and Houston playing for the Big East basketball championship?

    It sounds strange, but it could happen.

    With established powers Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia on their way out and former Conference-USA schools Memphis, Houston, SMU and UCF on their way in, the Big East will look dramatically different in a year or so.

    All those schools are set to join in 2013, meaning by the time of the 2014 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, it’s at least possible Memphis and Houston – or for that matter, SMU and UCF — could play for the title.

    “Although it sounds odd today, five years from now it’ll be accepted and it won’t be in the same manner,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said Wednesday.

    “So change is always going to occur and this is just another piece of evidence to support that.”

    There could be as many as 17 teams in the 2014 Big East Tournament, once the new schools are in and the old schools are out.

    Talk about a busy week at Madison Square Garden.

    “Our membership will get together and we’ll analyze all of the possibilities of a 17-team postseason championship,” Marinatto said.

    “Depending on what the membership’s desire is, there are ways to do whatever you want to do.”

    Marinatto added that while the 12-member football league that begins play in 2015 would be split into two six-team divisions, East and West, there were no such plans to divide the basketball conference into divisions.

    It remains unclear when West Virginia will leave, and Marinatto said it would be “inappropriate” to discuss whether the league would let them out in 2012. He also declined to comment on a timeframe as to when the matter would be resolved.

    The league and school are suing one another, and the Big East insists no school can leave before the 27-month time period, or June 2014.

    The addition of Memphis was clearly made to augment the basketball side of the league in the wake of the losses of Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia. Memphis’ basketball program is traditionally much stronger than its football team.

    “For different reasons, I think we’re always going to be very, very strong in men’s basketball,” Marinatto said. “And with the addition of Memphis I think we just solidify our position as being the best conference in the country in men’s basketball. And for that matter, women’s basketball.”

    While Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Notre Dame coach Mike Brey both told this fall they supported the additions of Memphis and Temple, Marinatto said Pitino was not “the driving force” behind the addition of Memphis.

    “Rick’s comments, as much as I love him,” Marinatto said, “didn’t really influence our membership’s decision.”

    He said Memphis was chosen over Temple in part because Memphis plays in the Central Time Zone, which would allow them to slide into the West Division for football.

    “We needed a school that would fit into that West Division,” Marinatto said.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.