Rosemont, Ill. – After taking its men’s basketball tournament to the east coast the last two seasons, the Big Ten is back in its “hometown” this season.
The tournament will be played at the United Center in Chicago, and commissioner Jim Delany is happy about that.
“It's great to be back in Chicago,” Delany said Thursday at men’s basketball media day. “It's the No. 3 market in the country, No. 1 in the Big Ten. We're fortunate to have Chicago and Indianapolis. Two of the great college basketball towns, college sports towns in the country.”
The two cities have hosted the most Big Ten tournaments — 10 each after this season — and they’ll continue to rotate through 2022. After that, there’s a chance the event could be played in other cities within the conference’s Midwest footprint, including Detroit.
“After we get out in four years and put a plan out and send it, I think it will be more open and more competitive,” Delany said. “There will be other opportunities for other cities to express interest. There's no plan — Indianapolis and Chicago, great cities — but there will be a competitive environment and others will have a chance to comment on their interest in the out years.”
With the opening of Little Caesars Arena, Detroit has become a more attractive city to big events. It hosted first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games last season and will do so again in 2021.
Former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis often has pushed Detroit for big events, including the Big Ten Football Championship game. In the spring of 2017, Hollis talked about bringing the Big Ten tournament to the Motor City.
“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.”
In each of the past two seasons, the tournament was held outside of traditional Big Ten territory with the 2017 event in Washington and last year’s in New York. Delany said the games at Madison Square Garden were a success, and it’s something the conference is working on doing again, though he added playing a week early, like last year, would not be an option.
“Long term, we’ll have 80 percent of our postseason play in the Midwest region and probably 20 percent out East,” Delany said. “We had a very successful opportunity to play in New York City, very good crowds, great excitement. We've talked to them about the future. We've presented them with a powerful promotion plan that we think, along with other conferences, if you can elevate Madison Square Garden, we think we can elevate Madison Square Garden to the next level with regard to a college basketball postseason.
“We're not going to be able to play early, but if we can play in a regular date in the out years, that would be something we would try to achieve with really strong presence 80 percent of the time in the Midwest. But that's part of our conference territory. We want to be in our legacy territory, as well as out east from time to time.”