We are in the midst of change in college basketball. Both the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference stepped outside their traditional geographical footprints this season with their post season tournaments. The B1G, whose post season tournament has traditionally been played at either the United Center in Chicago or Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, is holding its post season hurrah – which makes the Conference millions of dollars in television revenues - at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has generally held their post season hubbub in Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., or the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta, has moved to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. If you listen to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, they should have it in the mecca of sports every year, as he believes Madison Square Garden made the Big East, which is the conference that current ACC schools Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Boston College, once belonged.
Why did these two mega conferences step out of their strongholds of the Midwest and South to host their conference tournaments, that’s easy - money and exposure. Both conferences are looking to expand their brand into new markets, especially the Big Ten, into the Big Apple and the East Coast in general. With the pilfering of Maryland and Rutgers, they needed to move their tournament there to help in those recruiting bases. Also, the ACC, who along with ESPN, will launch their own television network at the end of this sports season, is looking to expand their brand as well while also expanding up and down the east coast.
After watching Wednesday’s games, I’m not sure the attendance at either venue is up to par that it was in Indy or Greensboro. However, I’m betting the attendance will be much more the remainder of the weekend with the teams that are playing for a chance to make the big dance Sunday start play for their tournament lives. I sure hope so, for both conferences’ sake.
The Big Ten is taking an even bigger leap of faith in the 2017-2018 season. They’re moving up their start to conference play to the middle of December, which usually doesn’t start until the beginning of January, to play their conference tournament in the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden.
They gauged interest earlier in the season when Wisconsin played Rutgers in men’s basketball during the afternoon and hosted Ohio State in the evening in men’s hockey. Penn State and Michigan did the same in 2016 with both a men’s basketball and hockey game.
Speaking of hockey, the Big Ten’s hockey league is still in its early stages. This is their second full year of play, and they’re looking to expand. Notre Dame, who has long been an opponent to joining anything Big Ten starts play next season, and I’m sure Jim Delaney, commissioner of the league, would love to secure recruits, and perhaps other college hockey teams to join his fledgling league.
Outside of the Midwest, New York has the largest Big Ten alumni base of any city in the country. It’s no wonder Jim Delaney wants to move his conference finale there. However, will it result in recruits and more money, we will wait and see.
Scott Smith is a Sports Writer for The Paper and has enjoyed covering Montgomery County sports for a year and a half. What started out as simply attending his son’s baseball games turned into a passion for writing about all different games and players. Scott’s “From the Cheap Seats” can be found in The Paper every Friday.