by Kent Sterling
The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of my favorite events on sports calendar – at least when it’s hosted by Indianapolis, the city built for exactly that purpose. As you enjoy the event this weekend, here are nine things to look for – both on the court and off to make you a better fan and more informed visitor.
Nowhere is Ike & Jonesy’s mentioned as the port of first and last resort for locating cougars looking to dance to the hits of the 1980s. I regret the omission.
- A little less than a half century ago, the big hitters in Indy convened to decide on a theme that might uniquely brand the city and drive its development. Doing everything with an eye on hosting a Summer Olympics, Indianapolis developed as a city built to host big sporting events. As you enjoy the festivities this weekend, remember and thank those men of vision who laid the foundation that brought the Pacers, Colts, Big Ten Football Championship, Super Bowl, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Fours, Big Ten Basketball Tournament, and so many more events. No, Indy will never host an Olympics, but it has hosted almost everything else.
- Ohio State has had an almost incredible run over the last eight years in the Big Ten Tourney. The Buckeyes have won four of the last seven, and played in the finals two other times. Bet against Ohio State at your own risk.
- Bankers Life Fieldhouse is nearly 15 years old, but still holds up as the finest basketball arena in the world. Unlike many multipurpose arenas constructed over the past quarter century, the Fieldhouse was built was one thong in mind – making attendance at a game more enjoyable. Concerts and rodeos are held here, but the primary purpose is to showcase the game of basketball, and that is done to perfection every time the doors open.
- There has been no home cooking at the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana has only participated in the finals of the tournament one time in the 16 years the Big Ten Tournament has been held, and has never won it. Purdue earned a spot in the finals in lost in the inaugural event in 1998, and won it in 2009. Other than that, early exits for the two Indiana teams.
- The tournament has only had two homes – Chicago (8 times) and Indianapolis (hosting for the 9th time). The sites will alternate between the two through 2016, and then it will be up for bid again. There is no reasonable explanation for the logic of ever allowing the event to leave Indy. The fan and team experience here is far better than what is possible in Chicago. The United Center holds an addition 5,000 people in the rafters, but is that really worth forcing the other 18,000 to pay for cabs to the game, pay ridiculous tariffs to park, and stay in overpriced hotels?
- There is no home court advantage for Indiana teams playing nine of these tourneys in Indy. If Northwestern can keep it rolling to win the tournament, Nebraska can win today against Ohio State, and Michigan can win beat Illinois and either Ohio State or Nebraska, Purdue will own the worst overall record in the history of the event at 9-16. Indiana will be percentage points ahead with their 10-17 record.
- In the last 12 Big Ten Tournaments, the #1 or #2 seed has won all but once. The lone exception was Purdue, the third seed in 2009 – the only time it won.
- If Ohio State can win the tournament, Aaron Craft could become the only player to repeat as tournament most valuable player. Craft made plays yesterday that annoyed opponents and thrilled fans. He’s a special player who Thad Matta will find impossible to replace.
- Under Tom Crean, the Hoosiers are 2-6 in the Big Ten Tournament – last year’s run to the semifinals was the best finish in his six years at Indiana. Mike Davis was 6-6, Bob Knight was 1-3, Kelvin Sampson and Dan Dakich were both 0-1.