The Big Ten Tournament kicked off on Wednesday with Nebraska-Penn State and Rutgers-Ohio State. The Huskers and Nittany Lions went to overtime, with Penn State winning 76-67. Meanwhile, Rutgers finished a mini-upset, beat Ohio State 66-57, and pick up the program’s first Big Ten Tournament win.
The early games brought some drama, even if the level of play wasn’t the highest level. We can hope it’s an indication of how the tournament might unfold in the later rounds. Let’s go over a few takeaways from day one at the Big Ten Tournament.
-The Big Ten Tournament Goes to Washington
For the first time in its history, the Big Ten moved the conference tournament away from Chicago/Indianapolis. Time will tell whether this is a positive move for the tournament. Regardless, Jim Delany is plowing forward with his east coast vision.
Since adding Rutgers and Maryland, the conference wants to spread its tournament wings a bit. The 2018 Big Ten Tournament will be held in New York at Madison Square Garden, but it’ll be a week earlier due to the Big East Tournament.
Night one in Washington, D.C. featured a bunch of empty seats, but it was likely more due to the early match ups and not an indication of future attendance, because it should be a fun tournament. The conference may not have an elite team, but the field is pretty wide open; in other words, every team has flaws.
Attendance doesn’t matter a great deal financially speaking. It’s about the TV contract and expanding the territory. But, if the attendance lags, or the location deters Big Ten fans from traveling.
No matter what the attendance brings, we know Flavor Flav is enjoying himself.
-Where do Nebraska and Ohio State go from here?
These two programs are trending in the wrong direction, or have been in the doldrums for multiple seasons. Neither Nebraska nor Ohio State brought much energy to the Big Ten Tournament. (After the game, BTN analysts seemed to question whether Ohio State wanted to be there.)
For Ohio State, the team underachieved from the season’s opening tip. The team had talent, but for whatever reason, it didn’t translate to wins this season. It’s almost like the sum of Ohio State’s parts are greater than the whole, at which point fans start looking at the coach.
Thad Matta will be back, but next year’s big. And, likely anything short of a NCAA Tournament appearance could lead to changes at Ohio State. Matta’s battled health issues in his time with the Buckeyes, and has achieved great success reaching the 2007 National Title.
For the Cornhuskers, it’s about youth and inexperience, but at some point we can’t keep returning to that explanation. The 2016-‘17 Cornhuskers finished 12-19 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten. Tim Miles has a 17-37 conference record over the last three years, and the tide will need to turn at some point soon.
Nebraska gave Miles a vote of confidence though, and will return to coach the Huskers for a sixth season.
-Could Rutgers and/or Penn State make a run?
Of course, anything’s possible, but I don’t see either victor tonight making a deep run in the tournament. Last year, Nebraska actually surprised people and played into the weekend.
These are good wins for programs looking for positive building blocks. Rutgers and Penn State can win the off season, or nab an intriguing recruit or two, but it has to materialize on the court. And, at least for a night, it did for both.