Two weeks after moving from central Illinois to Baltimore, Illinois graduate Josh Bruketta received great news Tuesday when the Big Ten announced it would stage its 2017 men’s basketball conference tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
“Verizon Center is, at most, a 40-minute drive from where I live now, so I fully plan on getting to at least every Illini game out here,” Bruketta said.
Since its inception in 1998, the postseason conference tournament has been held in either Chicago or Indianapolis.
But with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the league, beginning with the upcoming academic year, commissioner Jim Delany has made an effort to establish the Big Ten on the East Coast.
Tuesday’s announcement follows along with that plan.
“We have a great amount of respect for basketball in this region of the country,” Delany said in a statement, “and are pleased that we were able to place this tournament at the Verizon Center at this first possible opportunity in March 2017.”
Next year’s tournament will be held at the United Center in Chicago.
It will move back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in 2016 and then the Verizon Center in 2017. Beyond that, the sites have yet to be determined.
The move was met with widespread disapproval on social media Tuesday.
Bruketta’s close friend Brian Riddle, another UI graduate, said he’d only make the trip to Washington if his friend is still living there in three years.
“I get where the Big Ten’s coming from from a growth standpoint. But from a basketball standpoint, the bread and butter is in the Midwest,” said Riddle, who resides in Normal. “You’ve got Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, (and) all those alums live in Chicago or Indy.”
It’s not an accommodating trip for students to make, either.
“ It would be an awesome experience to go to D.C. to watch some basketball, but I think it would be a little bit of a trek for us,” said UI sophomore Hannah Taylor, the new president of the Orange Krush. “If it’s on our spring break, there might be some willingness to go out there. If the Big Ten wanted to offer some airfare or some buses, we’d be out there.”