“HEY YOU! THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT STARTED TONIGHT. WANT SOME TICKETS?” - Jim Delany on a NYC street corner right now, probably.
Let’s dive into what happened on Wednesday in Madison Square Garden.
Was moving the Big Ten Tournament to New York inevitably going to disappoint? For a Midwestern cynic like me, probably. Especially since the rational for the move was, in part, to appease Rutgers. On Wednesday night, Scarlet Knights fans couldn’t fill but a third of the three dozen or so seats behind their bench. Bad visual. [But hey, ANOTHER BTT win for Rutgers from the lucky #14 spot].
A couple of other key factors combined to make this an especially poor year for the league’s display on basketball’s most historic stage.
To start, this is really part of an all-year problem:: low quality of play in this year’s Big Ten means much to be desired from the tournament’s early matchups. Back in the good old days, Big Ten fans would have to deal with one day of potentially mediocre matchups (Thursday) before three days of excellent basketball.
Maybe I’m old fashioned [I’m 22], but this 14 team format really bothers me and takes away from the inherent competitiveness of the tournament, especially in a year like this when the league’s bottom four needs all the help they can get. Not to mention, we are in full-on BUBBLE SZN, and this is the softest Big Ten bubble in years.
Moreover, there’s also the bad-timing problem. No doubt Jim Delany was counting on the media gobbling up the novelty of one of the nation’s premier conferences playing in the nation’s biggest city. In most years, they would do so eagerly.
But this is not most years. While most of the season was played under relatively light cloud-cover stemming from the FBI’s September arrests, last week’s revelations sucked much of the oxygen out of the college hoops media landscape and mustered a tempest that threatens to overshadow the sport’s biggest month.
-Illini Go Down Fighting
Iowa overpowered the Illini and took advantage of their huge size advantage by knocking down an incredible 34 free throws (on 41 attempts). They’ll look to make something happen tomorrow against a much more talented and experienced Michigan team.
I will have a full write up of where Illinois goes from here in the coming days, but my rapid reaction, as an Illini fan, is hopeful disappointment. Without a competent true center or anything tangible to play for, the Illini competed for 40 minutes and gave fans a raw preview of what Brad Underwood hopes this team will become. Kipper Nichols was brilliant with 31 points.
Tops on the offseason agenda: finding a frontcourt running mate for Leron Black. The junior Power Forward returned to his worst instincts Wednesday, taking himself out of the game with useless frustration fouls 20 feet away from the basket. Difficult to blame him after going up against other teams Centers all season.
-Can Corey Sanders continue to channel Kemba Walker circa 2011?
Maybe the Walker comp is a little (ok a lot) aggressive, but Sanders was the best player on the floor in the second game. It’s not crazy to think Rutgers could beat Indiana tomorrow, then they’d get Purdue, who they almost beat in Piscataway, then they’d get…
Wednesday was an exciting slate for the opening day of the Big Ten Tournament. We will see what Thursday brings, but fans should get ready for a packed day of action.