The 2018 Big Ten Tournament begins tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The event will wrap up with the title game on Sunday.
Typically, the Big Ten finishes up its regular season on the first weekend in March, with the conference tournament beginning a few days later. The league championship game is usually played during the afternoon on Selection Sunday.
So why is the tournament being played a week earlier this year? Well, it has to do with where it is being played.
As part of the Big Ten's East Coast expansion with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, the league has tried to increase its footprint in the corresponding media markets. That means holding the tournament at Eastern venues in Washington, D.C. and New York.
Last year, the Big Ten Tournament was played at the Verizon Center in D.C. This year, it will be at the Garden.
But because the Garden hosts the Big East Tournament every year, the building is booked next week. So, in order to play at its desired location, the Big Ten agreed to move up its tournament to accommodate MSG.
In order to end regular season play in time for an early tournament, the Big Ten had to start conference matchups in December and play a condensed conference schedule. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune he "regrets" the decision and that it won't happen again.
“I appreciate the sacrifices the teams made, the impact it had on our students,” Delany said. “Wasn’t good. Wasn’t healthy. I thought starting (the conference schedule) early was OK, but if you look at our schedules (through the years), we’ve been able to give everybody two-day prep (before games) in 99 percent of the cases.
“We won’t do it again this way, and I take responsibility for asking the coaches. … If we can make it back to the Garden on a regular week, that’s great.
“I know we will be back out East. Where we will be, I don’t know. It won’t be on a regular basis. I expect that 80 percent will be in legacy territory (Chicago and Indianapolis) and probably 20 percent out East, whether it’s in D.C. or Philadelphia or New York.”
So, Big Ten fans, don't count on an early tournament in 2019 when the competition goes back to the Midwest. In fact, the next four Big Ten tourneys are set for the United Center in Chicago (2019 and 2021) and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (2020 and 2022).
For now, try to enjoy being the only Power 5 league playing its conference tournament this weekend. At least you don't have to share the spotlight.