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My Column: Why I Love Big Ten Basketball

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NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the refreshed BTPowerhouse! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Growing up about an hour North of New York City, options for big-time college athletics were slim. Syracuse was 200 miles upstate—too far North to feel the reach of the Orange fanbase—and schools from New York City carried only basketball, no football.

The only logical explanation for my issue was Rutgers, the closest school to have both football and basketball teams in a power conference. However, at this time, the Scarlet Knights were still members of the old Big East conference, meaning fans of the team were stuck with a lot of DePaul and South Florida games.

That all changed in 2014 when conference realignment hit the college sports world like a ton of bricks. Luckily for Rutgers, they would wind up shifting into a more prestigious conference—the Big Ten— alongside fellow East Coast team, Maryland.

While some old-school Big Ten fans have been resistant to the Eastern expansion, it opened up a whole new world for fans—like me—who were being introduced to the inner-workings of the famous, now-14-team league.

Almost instantly, I couldn’t help but fall in love with some of the cool stuff the conference offered—the legendary teams, century-old traditions, and of course, the 24/7 television network.

I mean, how great is the Orange Krush section at Illinois Fighting Illini home games? Or the fact that Northwestern has so many famous broadcasters as alumni? These are the type of things you notice when learning a conference’s nuts and bolts.

Then, as the Big Ten slowly convinces you that they’re the only thing you need, you start to think about them even when you’re not watching actual games. Your ears become trained to notice Big Ten jargon— like the Golden Gophers references in Fargo and Grumpy Old Men.

With all that said, Rutgers will always have a special place in my sports heart...but in the three years learning about and following the Big Ten, I’d like to think I’ve become a Big Ten fan over anything else.