Crowd at Madison Square Garden for the tip of Northwestern-Penn State pic.twitter.com/Ke7RGpf2NF
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 1, 2018
The idea of staging the Big Ten Tournament a week early just to play it at Madison Square Garden was a foolish idea from the start. It’s worked out pretty well for Rutgers so far, as the last place Scarlet Knights have already won two games in the tournament with the help of a little home court advantage, but that’s about it.
The Big Ten Tournament was held in either Chicago or Indianapolis every year between 1998 and 2016, before moving to Washington D.C. last year and MSG this year. Thankfully it’s slated to return to Chicago and Indianapolis for the next four years.
I understand trying to expand the conference’s footprint, but at some point the Big Ten has to accept that it is a Midwest conference. If they insist on trying out new tournament sites, Detroit and Minneapolis would be better options next time around. Ya know, cities with Big Ten teams and in driving distance of more Big Ten fans.
I understand that the early games of any college basketball tournament, especially on days with four games, can be sparsely attended. But I don’t seem to remember Syracuse, Villanova, or even Providence or Boston College ever playing in front of that many empty seats in the old Big East Tournament. Maybe that’s because the New York City area is loaded with Big East alumni and not nearly as many Big Ten alumni.
I also don’t remember a Big East tournament ever being played with this little buzz. Maybe that’s because these are the conference tournaments currently underway:
- Atlantic Sun
- Big South
- Big Ten
- Missouri Valley
- Northeast Conference
- Ohio Valley Conference
- Patriot League
Which doesn’t belong and why?
Only the Atlantic Sun, Big South and Patriot League started their conference tournaments earlier than the Big Ten Tournament. That’s because those conferences play tournament games at campus sites instead of at one venue. Only the Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valey and Ohio Valley Conference will crown a champion earlier than the Big Ten.
An eleven-day break might be nice for Florida Gulf Coast, UNC Asheville, or some other automatic-bid team as they prepare to enter the tournament as double-digit seed. But will it be too much time off for a serious national championship contender like Michigan State? If one of the top four seeds in the Big Ten tournament goes down today, they could have to wait two full weeks to play again. The Big Ten better have a good showing in the Big Dance or the experiment to play their conference tournament a week early at an empty Madison Square Garden will look a lot worse than it already does.