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Big West byes eliminated

August 25, 2010|Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
  • Senior guard Patrick Rembert and the UC Irvine men's basketball team will have a new conference tournament format this season.
Senior guard Patrick Rembert and the UC Irvine men's… (FILE PHOTO, Daily…)

UC Irvine men's basketball coach Russ Turner said recently that he had yet to exhale with any form of relaxation since being hired in early April.

And regardless of how well the Anteaters do in Turner's first season, they will not have any chance to relax with a bye in the Big West Conference Tournament.

The event, which moves this season from the Anaheim Convention Center to the Honda Center, March 10-12, will ditch the format that had awarded the top two regular-season finishers with byes into the semifinals.

Previously, the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds had first-round byes.

For the first time since 2003, the Big West will utilize a straight-bracket format, in which all eight teams will open in the quarterfinals, followed by semifinals the next day and the evening title game the day after that.

There had been some debate under the old bye format about just how beneficial not playing until the third day of the then-four-day tournament was. Winning four games in four days was, inarguably a more arduous road. But playing teams that had at least one tournament game under their belt in what was almost always their first game at the Anaheim Convention Center, prompted some to speculate that debuting in the quarterfinals or semifinals rendered higher-seeded teams ripe for an upset.

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In the six seasons the bye format was utilized, two No. 1 seeds and three No. 2 seeds were defeated in the semifinals. Then-No. 2-seeded UCI was upset in the 2006 semifinals by then-No. 3 Long Beach State.

Only twice in the six seasons under the bye format, did the top two seeds meet in the tournament title game.

In the seven years previous to the initiation of the bye format, only once did a top-seeded team not make the final. And in none of those seven seasons, did either a No. 1- or No. 2-seeded team not play for the tournament crown and the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

The Anteaters, whose roster has improved markedly since Turner arrived, open the regular season Nov. 8 at Illinois, as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

UCI, which plays home exhibition games Nov. 2 and Nov. 5 against UC San Diego and Concordia, respectively, plays its first home game Nov. 19 against Navy.

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