Big Ten basketball tourney going to MSG

Published 4:56 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — It wasn’t tough to devise a concept for the Big Ten to gain a greater foothold in the East once Maryland and Rutgers joined the conference.

Commissioner Jim Delaney took one of the conference’s best products — the men’s basketball tournament — and pitched it to Madison Square Garden.

The hardest part was selling that concept to the various teams’ coaches and administrators, particularly when it meant a disruption in when the tournament has traditionally been held.

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In conversations with the basketball coaches over the last year, Delaney had to overcome the argument there would be a week between the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA’s Selection Sunday. That lag was created because Madison Square Garden has a long-term agreement with the Big East to host its men’s basketball tournament. For Delaney, who announced at the Garden on Tuesday that the Big Ten men’s tournament will be held at the arena in 2018, it was a major sticking point to getting the deal done.

“They realized that when we added Penn State and ultimately Maryland and Rutgers that they were going to be playing out here,” Delaney said. “They realized they were going to be recruiting out here. They realize that all the major conferences now live in two regions.

“I think our conversations went like this: If we’re going to have institutions there and we’re going to recruit there and there are all these are great high school athletes, then we have to participate (there). I was just pleased they were willing to listen to the arguments on behalf of D.C. and New York.”

The 2018 tournament will be held Feb. 28 through March 4 at the Garden, with all 14 Big Ten teams playing for the conference’s championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Big Ten tournament has been held in either Chicago or Indianapolis for the first 17 years of its existence. It will be held at the United Center in Chicago in 2015 and at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in 2016 before making its first appearance on the East Coast at the Verizon Center in Washington in 2017.

Delaney said league play will start in December during the 2017-2018 season— earlier than usual — to accommodate the Garden. That means the one-week gap between the event and the NCAA tournament selections.

He asked the coaches to consider the amount of time after the tournament as a chance to rest, put in new plays or play a non-conference opponent.

“It’s a one-off, a one-timer,” he said. “We’ll see how it all works. If it gets a great response, then great. At least they’ll have the experience.”

Joel Fisher, the executive vice president of sports properties at MSG, said the Garden was happy to work with Delaney to land the men’s tournament. He said both sides kept the Big East in the loop on the negotiations and the conference was on-board.

“We think this will help college basketball,” Fisher said. “We think this will be a great lead-in to the Big East tournament. It will be a great week and a half of college basketball.”

Delaney said the Big Ten and the Big East are collaborating for the Gavitt Tip Off, an early-season tournament between teams from both conferences at the Verizon Center in 2017.

Delaney also announced the Big Ten will begin an annual basketball-hockey doubleheader at the Garden starting in 2016. The first doubleheader will have Penn State and Michigan hockey and basketball teams playing an afternoon and evening session on Jan. 30, 2016. Delaney was joined at the Garden news conference by two New York Rangers players: Carl Hagelin, who attended Michigan, and Derek Stepan, who attended Wisconsin.

The Big Ten contemplated moving its men’s championship tournament east for years. Plans picked up when Rutgers and Maryland were added to the conference two years ago. The conference has opened offices in Manhattan to give it a bigger presence on the East Coast. By aligning its men’s championship tournament with Madison Square Garden, the Big Ten will also get year-round exposure inside the building with signs around the arena and various promotions.

Delaney noted the conference has also increased its presence in the East by accepting the Johns Hopkins University lacrosse team as a member and by signing an agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl to send a conference football team to play at Yankee Stadium every year.

The Big Ten Network, which has 60 million subscribers, will get a boost from having a larger presence in the East, particularly in New York.