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Big Ten notebook: LCA seen as possible conference tournament site

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Rosemont, Ill. — By this fall, there will be a sparkling new arena in downtown Detroit, and if it were up to Mark Hollis, there’d be plenty of big-time college basketball events filling it.

The Michigan State athletic director was taking part in the Big Ten’s spring meetings this week at the conference’s headquarters and was asked about the chance Little Caesars Arena could host Big Ten tournaments.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered for Big Ten championships; there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered a site for the NCAA regionals,” Hollis said. “I know we’ve got two years of first-second rounds, and I think it’s going to be proven to be just a world-class experience for people to play there. I’m excited about it.”

Little Caesars Arena — the new home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons — will host first and second-round games of the NCAA Tournament in each of the next two seasons, as Hollis mentioned, and will get a chance to run through some college hoops when it hosts a double-header on Dec. 16 with Michigan taking on Detroit and Oakland facing Michigan State.

But Hollis’ hope is for even more and the Big Ten tournament could be a logical event for Detroit.

The tournament began in 1998 and played in both Chicago and Indianapolis each season until being played this year in Washington. It will head to New York in 2018 and then rotate the next four years between Chicago and Indianapolis. After that, there’s a chance it could move.

“That decision is a little bit in the future but probably not too far,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. “We’re a conference that goes from Colorado to the East coast and encompasses great cities with great arenas. … I think that Detroit and Minneapolis and other cities should aspire to (host). It will be a decision of the universities and athletic directors.

“We’re a conference that is blessed by great sports fans, great cities, and I can’t tell you that it will happen, but I would encourage interested parties to seek it and we have, obviously by going to DC and New York, demonstrated we believe we’re a conference that’s gotta serve a lot of different geographies.”

The Palace has hosted both first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games in the past as well as an NCAA Regional while Ford Field hosted the Final Four in 2009.

Hollis believes the facility is now in place to draw the biggest events more frequently.

“Before I walked through (the new arena) I was excited about it,” Hollis said. “But after seeing what they’ve developed there and what the building looks like and how it flows and how they’ve thought about most everything, it’s going to be one of the top hockey and basketball venues in the country. Very tight, tight sight lines, very well thought-out. I commend them for that and I will help them in any way to make sure that we can get Detroit rocking.”

New rivalry protections

The odd years when Michigan and Michigan State play only once in a college basketball season could be coming to an end as the Big Ten’s athletic directors discussed protected rivalries this week and have begun work on developing a plan to implement new scheduling parameters.

It’s not a conference-wide issue, but for the Wolverines and Spartans, as well as Indiana and Purdue, it’s a big deal.

“That issue amongst the coaching group has unanimous support for protecting certain rivalries that have a lot of interest regionally and probably for good of the league and for good of our media partners,” Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State, even Northwestern-Illinois raised their hands and said they would love to be in that group.

“The next step is we’ve agreed to push it back to the scheduling folks and find out, if we did that, what are the other impacts. I don’t know if we can get to it this year but I think we can in the reasonably near future, which would be good.”

The Big Ten and Fox

According to a graphic shown to Fox affiliates on Monday, it looks like the Michigan-Ohio State game will be televised on Fox, as well as the Michigan State-Notre Dame matchup.

There has been no official announcement but on Tuesday Delany said he was aware Fox was intending to reveal some of the games on their own.

“We’re very near conclusion on those agreements in principle, for sure,” Delany said. “I think in weeks we will have a public announcement where more details will come out.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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