Big East basketball expands schedule

Beginning next season, the number of league games in men’s basketball will be increased from 16 to 18, according to the Big East Conference.

The additional two games became a necessity after South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul joined the conference two seasons ago. The conference’s expansion prevented each school within the conference from playing each other at least once during the season.

“It was important to play every other team at least once. To do that with only 16 games would have allowed only one repeat,” said Big East Associate Commissioner Tom Odjakjian during an e-mail interview. “We needed at least three repeats in order to maximize certain match-ups for CBS and ESPN.”

Previously, each team in the conference would play 15 different Big East teams during the season, including a two-game set with a different opponent every year.

“It was not an ideal situation, and we’re looking forward to 18 (conference games),” Odjakijan said. “The feedback has been very positive from fans, media and the networks. The coaches wanted to play every team, too. Obviously, the caliber of our conference makes for a difficult schedule with more conference games. The coaches know they have two more tough challenges.”

Since moving to the Big East, USF has a record of 4-28 against conference opponents, but two of those victories came at the Sun Dome as the second game of a home-and-home series. In their first year, USF’s only conference victory came against Georgetown, and this season the Bulls knocked off then-ranked No. 21 Notre Dame.

The expanded conference play will enable the five additional teams to develop new rivalries and make the historic ones of the Big East even more heated.

“Making certain that every team plays each other and that there are at least three repeats supports old and new rivalries,” Odjakijan said. “The more often good teams play each other, the better a rivalry can be.”

Coaching news: Another potential replacement for Robert McCullum can be crossed off the list. Jeff Goodman of reported that Tom Moore will become the next head coach at Quinnipiac.Two days ago, Moore expressed his interest in coaching at South Florida but never spoke with anyone directly from the University.

Although Moore said he wasn’t opposed to moving to Tampa, the former Connecticut assistant is staying in-state with Quinnipiac after agreeing to a deal of approximately $300,000 per season.

With the list of potential candidates dwindling by the day, the remaining options for USF appear to be ex-Arkansas coach Stan Heath, former Virginia coach Pat Gillen (the only remaining candidate yet to interview for the position), former St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis and former Villanova coach Steve Lappas.

As of Wednesday, four interviews had been conducted concerning the only head coaching vacancy in the Big East.

Attempts to reach Heath on Wednesday were unsuccessful and Lappas, currently a college basketball analyst for CSTV, declined an interview.

USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard will not comment about potential candidates throughout his search for the eighth coach in the basketball program’s 35-year history.

Since McCullum was fired March 10, Winthrop’s Gregg Marshall, South Alabama’s John Pelphrey, Virginia Commonwealth’s Anthony Grant and ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla have all announced publicly they are not interested in the job.

WNBA Draft Camp: Jessica Dickson, the all-time leading scorer in USF history with 2,402 career points, will participate in the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp Friday and Saturday at Cleveland State University.

Dickson is one of 52 players to participate in the camp and is only one of two representatives of the Big East. The camp enables each player to demonstrate their skills in front of coaches and general managers affiliated with each of the 13 teams in the WNBA.

The 2007 WNBA Draft presented by adidas is set to take place in Cleveland on April 4, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel. First-round draft coverage is available on ESPN 2 and online at