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Is it time for a Big East shakeup?

Jim Boeheim isn't a happy man these days.

The Syracuse head coach hasn't exactly been pleased since the expansion of the Big East Conference, and sure wasn't smiling after his team was left out of the NCAA Tournament despite the Orange's 10-6 finish in league play and 22-10 overall record.

Syracuse won a tie-breaker for fourth place in the Big East over Marquette by virtue of its 70-58 victory over the Golden Eagles in January, yet was passed over for the Big Dance while Marquette went for the second consecutive year.

A Sunday piece by Ed Daigneault in the Waterbury (Conn.) American explains how Boeheim is in favor of splitting up the 16-team Big East. It's a topic that has been debated since the tectonic shifting of several conferences a few years back.

The league, arguably, is one of the best in the nation. Its stature isn't arguable; it belongs right up near the top. For Marquette, being a part of the league is quite the symbol of achievement; not long ago, the school was one of the few remaining independents and eventually started its climb to the top with a two-year run in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League).

Marquette fans would be understandably upset about a split in the league, but really they might benefit from it. There was talk back in 2004 about a possible "Catholic League," which would be made up of primarily Big East schools; Marquette, Notre Dame, DePaul, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Providence, and Seaton Hall.

Take a second look at that lineup and you might reconsider any opposition to a split. The Hoyas are headed to the Final Four, Villanova is a perennial top-25 squad, Notre Dame is on an upswing, DePaul, St. John's, and even Providence and Seton Hall can provide tough challenges. This could actually be a better fit for Marquette than its current situation. Considering the traditions and rivalries, maybe Boeheim isn't too crazy for feeling like he does.

With just eight teams, a true round-robin schedule could be contested; fans here could be treated to annual home-and-home series with the arch-rival Blue Demons and Fighting Irish. The only downside, really, is missing out on the money the league brings in through football broadcasting deals.

Nothing will happen for at least three more years; the NCAA mandates no changes for at lest the first five years of league play, but it wouldn't be surprising -- or disappointing -- to see the league break in half.


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