On Tuesday, the Big East conference announced plans for the spring sports championships. We can’t say “all spring sports” because they’re still holding back on baseball and softball, but we can ignore that because Marquette doesn’t sponsor a team in either sport. This announcement includes not only the traditional capital-s Spring Sports, but also the fall sports that have been shifted to Spring 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to advising us when all the conference tournaments will be played, the league also communicated the regular season formats for league play for the spring in every sport where that applies.
Let’s just go in order in the press release, shall we?
Soccer play starts Feb. 27 for the men and March 4 for the women. Both soccers will play divisional schedules with six teams in the East (Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova) and five teams in the Midwest (Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette and Xavier). The divisional teams will play home and home matches against each divisional opponent. Both schedules have two bye weeks built in for rescheduling purposes if necessary. The men’s championship takes place April 14-17 and will be hosted by the highest overall seed across both divisions. The women’s championship will be hosted at Providence, April 15-18.
Okay, so first things first: This is the explanation of league play scheduling, as the NCAA has said that teams can start playing on February 3rd for both the men and the women. I’m not entirely sure why the league is delaying the women’s start by five days when they have the same number of games to get in for essentially the exact same amount of time, but whatever. Also, the league has now confirmed that they will be using the divisional play format that the Big East announced waaaaaaaay back in June. Marquette’s two teams will be playing an eight game conference schedule this spring, as five teams in the Midwest division means that there’s four non-MU teams to serve as opponents. It’s unclear at this point how many teams will be qualifying for the conference tournaments. Usually the semifinals and finals take place over a three day period (semifinals, day off, finals), but the league has announced a four day window here. That sounds an awful lot like they’ll be going with semifinals/finals only and just using an extra day in between, but we’ll have to wait and see, I guess.
Volleyball will also play divisionally with five teams in the East (Connecticut, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova) and five teams in the Midwest (Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette and Xavier). League play will start on Friday, Feb. 19. Each team is scheduled to play divisional opponents twice, with both games scheduled at one location on the same weekend. The championship is scheduled for April 2 and 3, hosted by Creighton. The Championship will pit the top two teams in the East and Midwest against each other.
As expected after reading the soccer section, the divisional format announced in June will still be in use now. The “play twice, both in the same place over one weekend” format is also expected after Marquette and Creighton announced that they would be playing a pair of non-conference matches in Omaha this season. At the time I figured this meant there would be only one MU/CU weekend in the schedule and that it would be in Milwaukee. We don’t have the schedule yet, but this statement from the league definitely pushes further in that direction. I’m curious about the explanation of what the semifinal format will be here while that exact same statement was missing from the soccer explanation. I would presume it would be the same thing, but then again, since the league isn’t explicitly saying how many teams will qualify, I don’t want to presume it will be a four team tournament over there.
We skip over field hockey, a sport that Marquette does not sponsor, to get to ....
Men’s lacrosse will play a double round robin schedule in which each school is scheduled to play 10 league games within an 11-week period starting Feb. 20 with the final week of play held for makeup dates. The championship will feature the top four seeds and will be hosted by Providence, May 6 and May 8.
We don’t have the men’s lacrosse schedule yet, but this looks like the Big East is essentially asking teams to not play non-conference matches, or at least definitely limiting them. The schedule has usually started in early February, so there’s going to be some time to get matches in. However, by doubling the number of league matches, that really cuts down on non-conference availability both in terms of scheduling as well as the maximum number of games the NCAA allows you to play. Based on past schedules, it looks like the maximum number of allowed games is 13
Starting Friday, March 19, women’s lacrosse will play a Friday – Sunday schedule in which the teams will play their opponents twice in one weekend. The schedule spans seven weekends with two makeup weekends built in. The championship will be hosted by Georgetown, May 6 and May 8.
As I was typing this up, Marquette released their women’s lacrosse schedule, so we can actually see how this all works out together. The Golden Eagles will be playing five non-conference matches to go with their 10 game Big East schedule. Just so we’re clear on this, “play their opponents twice in one weekend” means MU either going on the road or staying at home and then playing the same team in consecutive matches over the weekend. It would appear that one of the makeup weekends — at least for Marquette? — is the week before the conference tournament is set to go off in Washington, D.C.
It’s not expressly stated in here, and I don’t remember seeing it officially announced (there were much more important things going on in April 2020, y’all), but the Big East is a six team women’s lacrosse as they have swapped Old Dominion to the American Athletic Conference in exchange for Connecticut coming back to the Big East. The Huskies were only gone from the league for two seasons, and not even that as the 2020 season was spiked before Marquette even played one conference match. The Big East added Old Dominion back when UConn left the league as an affiliate member because the AAC was starting to sponsor the sport because enough members were fielding teams for it to make sense, and since UConn is now a Big East team again, the two teams got flipped in terms of league affiliation. Easiest move in the world.
The remaining sports are all ones where the Big East does not set a league schedule: Cross Country, Swimming & Diving, Tennis, Golf, and Track & Field. Here’s the info download:
The 2021 Olympic sport championship schedule will commence March 5 with the men’s and women’s cross country championship. The races will take place at the WakeMed Cross Country Complex in Cary, N.C. The men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships will return to Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, April 7-10. Men’s and women’s tennis is scheduled for April 22-26 at its home for the past four years, the Cayce Tennis Center in Cayce, S.C. The women’s and men’s golf championship will return to Callawassie Island, S.C. The women’s competition will be April 23-25, while the men’s will be April 30 through May 2. The men’s and women’s outdoor track & field championships will be hosted by Connecticut, May 14-15.
The most notable thing in this paragraph is the lack of an indoor track & field championship. I presume part of this is mostly that the Big East is trying to sponsor a cross country championship and figuring out another event around the same time that’s going to use some of the same athletes just isn’t a great plan. The majority of this decision is most likely due to the fact that it’s wildly insane to try to jam several hundred athletes as well as meet officials into an indoor facility during a pandemic. If you’ve ever been to a high school track & field meet with 11 teams involved, you can get the rough idea of how much space those teams can take up, and when you’re talking about an indoor meet with a (potentially) smaller track, then the space is just that much smaller. It’s just not a good use of anyone’s time.
The only thing surprising about any of this is the five day gap between the men’s and women’s golf championships. That’s not even explainable by Easter, as that’s on April 4th. It would seem to make more sense to start the men’s tournament right after the women’s event, maybe with one day off to reset the course, but instead they’re putting four off days in between the two. I’m sure there’s some sort of logical reason here, maybe course management related, but I’m not immediately seeing it.
If you want to read the Big East’s entire press release on this — although almost all of it is in here already — you can check it out right here.