(ABC)–As part of an ongoing effort to broaden its scope, the Big Ten will converge a few blocks from the White House this week to crown a new basketball champion.
Long a fixture in the Midwest, the Big Ten Tournament will be held in the nation’s capital for the first time.
“It’s going to be some big-time basketball,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re just glad we get to do it in our backyard, which should be fun.”
By adding Maryland and Rutgers to the conference in 2014, the Big Ten formally extended its footprint to the East Coast. This year’s tournament, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday, will be held at Verizon Center. Next year’s tourney will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“It really is an example of a traditional conference that continues to change,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in October, when all 14 teams gathered in Washington for Media Day. “Our actions are aligned with our plans. This is a very important part of the country for us.”
Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State (which joined in 1990) will have the luxury of traveling to the tournament by bus.
“We’re excited about not having to get on a plane,” Turgeon said. “It’s great for our fans.”
Third-seed Maryland doesn’t play until Friday night. The Terrapins have already sold their entire allotment of tickets, and the local contingent could increase over the weekend.
“Terp fans have been trying to snatch up tickets,” Turgeon said. “If we’re lucky enough to advance, our crowds will continue to grow.”
Home court advantage? Quite possibly.
“Especially since the rest of us are coming so far,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of Maryland’s advantage. “It’s pretty exciting for them, and maybe incentive for their fans and them to get to the semifinals and finals, no question about it.”
Purdue, the regular season champion, has won eight of nine. The Boilermakers, along with Wisconsin, Maryland and Minnesota, have double-byes before starting play. The tournament gets underway Wednesday afternoon with 12th-seed Nebraska facing No. 13 Penn State, followed by 11th-seeded Ohio State taking on No. 14 Rutgers.