Asmussen | Apple of their eye?

Asmussen | Apple of their eye?

Sure, Michigan won the Big Ten tournament title on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. But did anyone in New York City actually care? That’s a resounding no.

Not all experiments are worth a try. Like New Coke, A&W Root Beer-flavored Pop-Tarts and the Big Ten basketball tournament in New York City.

Jim Delany needs to crumple up that piece of paper and toss it in the "Never again" basket.

To quote President Bush: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you can't get fooled again."


Let's face it, the normally brilliant Delany made a mistake. He deserves a lifetime contract for BTN alone. But this time, we found out not all of his ideas turn to gold.

The crowds for the opening round games were smallish. Listed at 14,681 in the 19,812-capacity, you could count the fans in the stands for the opener. Illinois and Iowa played the first day. I tried to find someone, anyone, from here who went to the game. Other than the people like Brad Underwood and Brian Barnhart, who were working, no such luck. New York City is a flight away and decent hotels cost a bundle. When every game is on TV, there is little motivation to make the effort.

Fan unfriendly

Put Illinois-Iowa in a first-round game at the United Center or Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the building is buzzing. Even when the records are sub-.500.

But send the Illini and Hawkeyes — 837 miles and 996 miles away, respectively — to a state outside the Big Ten's footprint and it's crickets.

Please don't take this as a slam on Madison Square Garden. It's the coolest basketball arena in the country and players are thrilled to be there. But not in the Big Ten Conference tournament.

To even use the building, the Big Ten had to cram together its schedule and finish a week early. The Big East, which justifiably has rights to the primo weekend in NYC, wasn't about to change its calendar.

In the next few weeks, we will find out how much the mistake costs the Big Ten. The conference isn't playing on Selection Sunday, so it will miss being the lead-in on CBS. That's a lot of potential recruits that should have been watching Michigan-Purdue.

What did the condensed schedule do to some of the Big Ten bubble teams? Would they have been better off with the usual preparation time?

Future fallout

And what happens to the Big Ten once the NCAA tournament starts? Yes, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan will have more rest. But there is a good chance they will be rusty. Ohio State will have almost two weeks between games and will be coming off a disappointing loss. If the Buckeyes bow out early, their fans can point to the fancy building in New York City and ask "Was it worth it?"

The answer is "heck no."

The tournament belongs in the Midwest. Period. Last year's trip to D.C. was just about as egregious.

Thankfully, the event returns to Chicago next March. Then Indy. Then Chicago. Then Indy. As it was meant to be.

Just like Kevin McCallister, the Big Ten tournament was lost in New York. An afterthought for a town that loves basketball. But is saddled with the Knicks.

Other than Big Ten alums in the area, there is little draw for the New York market. The college tournament they care about most, the Big East, starts in two days.

If the Big Ten feels the need to go all exotic, then it should try some other venues in the Midwest. Detroit has a fancy new building (Little Caesars Arena) and would love the extra business. Minneapolis just hosted the Super Bowl and has the renovated Target Center in a vibrant downtown. Fans would love it. Omaha fills its downtown arena for every Creighton game and sold out tickets for the Midwest Regional this fast. The city would treat the Big Ten teams like royalty.

There are options. Or the Big Ten can stick with the old reliable Chicago-Indy combination. Forever.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at

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Bwp 5P wrote on March 05, 2018 at 8:03 am

Absolutely Agree. Made No sense at all!

wholdcroft wrote on March 05, 2018 at 11:03 am
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The mistake is not holding these tournaments in arenas close to member schools (Rutgers & Marlyand).  Rather, it is including Rutgers and Maryland in a conference which has no - zero - affinity to the east coast.

Acknowledge/rectify that mistake and this issue takes care of itself.  Keep Rutgers and Maryland in the Big Ten and the tournaments will be back to those same two locations.  Not next year.  Not the year after that.  But in the next 5 or 6 years...

CecilColeman wrote on March 05, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Many retired folks from the Midwest are enjoying their Golden Years in Arizona. Now that Mr. Delaney is well into his 70's, his post season tourney would have been better off in Phoenix.