INDIANAPOLIS — The 2018 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament will be staged at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
In an interview with the Tribune from his suite at Lucas Oil Stadium, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany confirmed an SI.com report that the league will venture to New York City to stage its signature basketball event at Madison Square Garden.
Delany called the venue “iconic, historic and very cool.
The Big Ten also had considered Omaha, Minneapolis and Detroit, but this represents a bold statement about the conference’s desire to have a strong East Coast presence after the additions of Rutgers and Maryland.
The deal, which will be announced Tuesday, will have an interesting component not previously reported. In both 2016 and 2017, MSG will host a “Big Ten Day” featuring a day-night, hockey-basketball doubleheader.
Michigan and Penn State will duel in both sports, Delany said, on Jan. 30, 2016. The 2017 participants have yet to be determined.
Big Ten and MSG officials negotiated this deal for months, with Delany telling the Tribune in September: “We’ll continue to explore the situation, but New York is expensive.”
Delany had to convince league presidents and chancellors that long-term branding and revenue opportunities trumped short-term costs.
And he had to assuage the basketball coaches who are concerned about what the event will do to the 2017-18 schedule: With the Big East having a stranglehold on the weekend that culminates with Selection Sunday, the Big Ten tournament will be played one week earlier.
That means more conference games in December and, more jarringly, no significant games in the week before teams try to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Delany said several coaches, including Indiana’s Tom Crean, Maryland’s Mark Turgeon and Iowa’s Fran McCaffery, once coached in leagues with conferences tournaments that ended several days before Selection Sunday.
So while the Big Ten will help teams if they want to stage a non-conference game that week, “the vast majority want to rest and prep [for postseason tournaments].”
For fans concerned the Big Ten is becoming to East Coast-centric, Delany pointed out Chicago will have the Big Ten tournament in 2015, 2019 and 2021. Indianapolis gets it in 2016 and 2020. Washington will be the site in 2017.
“Over the next eight years, we’re out of the region twice,” he said. “Going forward, we’ll be out [east] maybe 20 percent of the time and in our ‘legacy region’ about 80 percent of the time. We want to have a conference that lives in two regions, recruits in two regions and telecasts in two regions.”