Miles Ahead: The Big Ten in the Big Apple Experiment

Photo by Elsie Stormberg, The World-Herald

The Huskers finished their season with two wins over Indiana and Penn State to finish the season 16-1 at home and 13-5 in the Big Ten, breaking the school record for conference wins, clinching the 4-seed in the Big Ten tournament, and tipping the scale a tiny bit more in their favor for the NCAA Selection Committee. In fact, three highly respected coaches in the league, Tim Izzo of Michigan State, Chris Collins of Northwestern, and Jon Beilein of Michigan, both deemed Nebraska worthy of a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

But for now, the experiment of bringing the Big Ten to New York City commences. This decision has raised a lot of concerns for fans and teams in the Midwest-based league. The main one being simple: why? Why have the tournament in a city further east than every school in the conference instead of a central location?

Money. Talks.

The three key players in this conundrum are Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Maryland, and Rutgers. Other than the obvious athletic prestige, geographic proximity, and culture fit, Delany saw an opportunity to expand the Big Ten brand to the lucrative markets of New York City and Washington D.C. Let me tell you, if there’s one thing people of those cities care about, it’s college athletics in the Midwest.

It should all make sense from a business perspective, I guess. The Big Ten has a stake in a majority of major Midwest cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, Omaha), and now has a presence in two of the top-10 markets in the country with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland. Don’t forgot about Philadelphia and Pittsburgh either. Bigger markets = more opportunities for TV revenue, which in turn means bigger payouts for member schools, as evidenced by the most recent payout, which essentially doubled from $26 million to $50.6 million last year.

So while all the university higher-ups and Big Ten front office employees agree in the opportunity for more cash, the average Big Ten fan reacts as such:

giphy (12)

Sure, why not take on these two black sheep schools located close to huge cities apathetic towards college sports. In fact, let’s lure them in by promising that their respective cities will host the men’s basketball tournament in consecutive years! Sounds great!

Ron Howard voice: it wasn’t great.

Last year’s conference tournament in Washington D.C. was poorly attended, down by more than 20 percent from the 2016 tournament in Indianapolis. This year, there are only two schools within 200 miles of the tournament site. Guess who! Meanwhile, Minnesota and Nebraska will travel more than 1,000 miles to play in their own conference tournament. It doesn’t logistically make sense other than to appease the new kids on the block. I refer to the “new kids on the block” as Maryland and Rutgers, when Nebraska could still be grouped in that category. Nebraska is the new kid who slipped into the background once newer kids showed up.

But hey, at least some extra cash could be made. Potentially, maybe.

On Friday, Jim Delany owned up to his mistake. He realizes that a condensed schedule and short turnaround between games isn’t healthy for the product itself; and moving the tournament up a week could be detrimental for teams poised to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament such as Michigan State and Purdue. The chance of stamping the Big Ten footprint on a major market doesn’t outweigh the cons of scheduling, travel, and weakening your own product. Thankfully, the tournament will alternate between Chicago and Indianapolis from 2019-2022.

Well, Jim, you made your own bed, and now you have to lie in it. I wish you and this experiment the best, and If there’s anything I know about New Yorkers, it’s how much they love a New Jersey native intruding into their space.

Key Takeaways/News:

  • James Palmer Jr. has had his two worst games of the season against Penn State. On Sunday, he finished with 11 points, three rebounds, and six turnovers. Nonetheless, he was named first team All-Big Ten by the coaches, and second team by the media. He’s the first Husker first-teamer since Terran Petteway in 2014. Well deserved honors. Look for him to bounce back from his Penn State performance in New York City.
  • Jordy Tshimanga continues to play well off the bench. The sophomore had four points and nine rebounds against Indiana, along with eight points, five rebounds, and one block against Penn State. Each game with 12 minutes of action. I didn’t expect him to play so well after his short absence from the team in mid-January. Hopefully he can bring this momentum to Madison Square Garden.
  • Evan Taylor, Anton Gill, Duby Okeke, and Malcolm Laws played their final home game as Huskers on Sunday. Each plays a vital role in some fashion. Evan Taylor and Anton Gill serve as co-captains and exhibit strong leadership, Duby Okeke does the grunt work down low, and Malcolm Laws leads the increasingly famous bench mob. I enjoy this group of seniors and will be sad to see them go.

Results:

  • vs. Indiana: W, 66-57
    • Points: Palmer, 15
    • Rebounds: Roby & Tshimanga (each), 9
    • Assists: Watson, 5
    • Blocks: Taylor, 2
    • Steals: Gill, Watson, and Palmer(each), 2
  • vs. Penn State: W, 76-64
    • Points: Palmer, 15
    • Rebounds: Roby & Tshimanga (each), 9
    • Assists: Watson, 5
    • Blocks: Taylor, 2
    • Steals: Gill, Watson, and Palmer (each), 2

Up Next (22-9, 13-5 Big Ten):

  • Friday, March 2nd: vs. winner of Michigan & Illinois/Iowa. Tipoff at 1pm. Watch on BTN.

 

 

 

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