This Saturday at the home of the Indiana Pacers, Banker's Life Fieldhouse, the four most-storied basketball programs in the state of Indiana will come together for two great games. The Crossroads Classic is now in its fifth year and will be around until at least 2019. Big Ten heavyweights the Purdue Boilermakers and Indiana Hoosiers will face the Big East's Butler Bulldogs and Notre Dame Fighting Irish respectively. I have connections to every team involved on Saturday, as I grew up in southern Indiana, went to Purdue, married a smart and beautiful woman from St. Joseph County, and now live in Indianapolis.
What I'm getting as is I love this event, and I thought it would be fun to look at how the other states in the Big Ten might be able to set up similar events. Below you'll find what I deemed to be the four best, or at least most interesting programs in each state and an attempt to choose a venue. Most of these are also assumed to be a two-year rotating event like the Crossroads Classic, where the first two teams never play each other and neither to the bottom two. However, this isn't true for every proposed event, and those are explained in the description.
Illinois was pretty easy to choose, with two Big Ten teams and a Big East member. The last team I chose was Southern Illinois, they have some pretty solid recent history, making the Sweet Sixteen in 2002 and 2007. The United Center seems like an obvious choice of venue.
Iowa already has the Big 4 Classic, which is almost the exact same format as the Crossroads and just as awesome.
This is our first three-year rotation event. Maryland was a difficult state to pick, after the Terps there really aren't any other successful basketball programs in the state. However, if we included Washington D.C., Georgetown and George Washington would be obvious choices. If we stuck with Maryland the games would be played at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, where the Terps play on Saturday against Princeton. For D.C. area, they would probably end up with a rotation between the Xfinity Center and the Verizon Center.
Outside of UM and MSU, Michigan has 3 MAC programs and 2 Horizon League teams. I choose one from each league, I tried to pick the best program per conference, but there wasn't a lot separating them so my selections ended up being fairly arbitrary. The obvious choice for a location would be The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Gophers are the only Division I team in the state, so I decided to go with DII teams that play DI in hockey. Unfortunately, there are actually four programs that do that so the Bemidji State Beavers got left out. Being that these are lower division teams, I'm going to assume that they end up playing at The Barn. Oh, and this would be a three-year rotation event. This would probably be a fun hockey event, but I suspect even this year's Minnesota team would dominate in basketball.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
- Minnesota State Mavericks
- St. Cloud State Huskies
I ended up having to dip into DII again for Nebraska, and I choose the Lopers based soley on their unique team name. This event would likely be played at Nebraska or Creighton, possibly rotating years.
Choosing a fourth team for the Garden State was difficult, but I went with Monmouth because of their current darling status in the media due to the bench celebrations. Not sure what stadium would be used, but probably the Prudential Center, home of Seton Hall and formerly the Nets. Opening this up to the New York metro area could yield lots of different team choices, but I think staying in Jersey makes it more unique.
Ohio seems like a really fun idea, although like Indiana, there are a ton of other mid-major teams who could make an argument to be included or start their own event. All four schools have seen some level of recent success in the NCAA Tournament. UC and X already play each other every year, so this is still a two-year rotation event. Although the Cleveland Cavaliers have a great arena, it is just too far away from most of these campuses to be plausible. Perhaps a good location could be US Bank Arena in Cincy, where the Musketeers and Bearcats played in years past.
This is one of the events that sees a three-year rotation. This is probably the hardest state to figure out. Despite other worthy candidates, especially from Philly's Big 5, Temple earns the nod due to their conference affiliation. The American is certainly a conference of leftovers, but it just edges out the Atlantic 10 in prestige. Another big issue with this arrangement would be finding a suitable arena that every team would agree to, which might prove impossible, even on a rotating basis.
Much like Iowa, Wisconsin only has four DI basketball teams, which makes my selection very easy. The arena choice is a tough one, but I think Wisconsin and the other teams would be amenable to playing in the Bradley Center, even though it is Marquette's home court.
The Crossroads Classic is a fun event for any true fan of college basketball in Indiana, and I can't wait to cover both games on Saturday. I hope fans from other states appreciate my attempts to replicate the idea for them, and maybe sometime in the future states other than Iowa and Indiana will start similar events.