The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament has turned into a bit of a traveling circus. This past season, the annual “celebration of Big Ten basketball” was held at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. And come next season, and a week earlier than normal, they will move the site to Madison Square Garden in New York City.
This latest conference tournament was the first time in 20 years that it was held in a city not named Chicago or Indianapolis. But if one were to ask Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, he says they should consider holding future conference tournaments at the newly-minted (or soon to be) Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.
“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered for Big Ten championships,” Hollis said this week at Big Ten headquarters. “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered a site for the NCAA regionals. I know we’ve got two years of first-second rounds, and I think it’s going to be proven to be just a world-class experience for people to play there.”
“After seeing what they’ve developed there and what the building looks like and how it flows and how they’ve thought about most everything, it’s going to be one of the top hockey and basketball venues in the country,” Hollis said. “Very tight, tight sightlines, very well thought-out. I commend them for that and I will help them in any way to make sure that we can get Detroit rocking.”
Hollis, one of the more vocal and influential people in his position across the nation, is coming off a five-year stint as a member of the men’s basketball tournament selection committee. He has been a driving force for scheduling very noteworthy events, specifically with his men’s basketball program and the Armed Forces Classic events (and the inaugural Carrier Classic).
Little Caesars Arena, the soon-to-be new home of both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons, has been busy booking notable events left and right as the opening of the venue draws near. They recently announced a college basketball doubleheader for this December, featuring Michigan playing Detroit Mercy, and Hollis’ Spartans playing Oakland. That came not long after scheduling other high-profile college athletic events, including the 2020 Frozen Four, first-weekend men’s basketball tournament games in 2021 and men’s wrestling championships in 2022. LCA is already slated to host first- and second-round games in March of 2018.
If any such decision was made regarding Little Caesars Arena hosting the Big Ten Tournament, the earliest it would happen would be in 2023. After next season at MSG, the tournament rotates back to Chicago (’19 and ’21) and Indianapolis (’20 and ’22).
The most recent event held at the nation’s capital was met with mixed reviews. The teams seemed to enjoy it because it was something different and new exposure for them. Fans of the teams however did not seem to care for the extended travel. For folks in the Mitten, it’s at least a 500-mile trip to Washington and will be a bit longer to the Big Apple.
The move to hold the events at this two venues in particular has been primarily for conference exposure, since the additions of two prominent east coast universities in Maryland and Rutgers and getting hold of major media markets.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has held conferences with coaches and ADs in recent days and weeks to discuss future events and scheduling. He says, when it comes the venues, the hoops tournament is much more flexible than say the football championship game, which has taken place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis since it first began in 2011.