INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten Conference men’s basketball tournament has spent half its life in one city, half in another.
As the popular appetizer to March Madness burgeons into its teenage years, Indianapolis becomes the center of the Big Ten hoops universe today through Sunday for the fifth consecutive year and eighth overall, edging one ahead of Chicago.
Starting in 2013, the bracket will bounce back and forth between Chicago’s United Center (2013, 2015) and Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse (2014, 2016) for at least the next half-decade.
Each host city provides a unique set of advantages. Chicago brings the glitz and glamour, while Indy is favored as pleasant and convenient.
One issue Michigan State coach Tom Izzo derides is Chicago’s occasional hardship of finding parents’ cheap and accessible hotel rooms.
“At times, I’ve preferred Indy because of the closeness to everything. It’s a little more expensive in Chicago and a little harder to get around,” Izzo said. “But on the other side, all our wives love to go shopping in Chicago. Every school has a huge alumni base in Chicago, and that’s a plus.
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Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan admitted you can’t count on smooth sailing getting to the United Center — “sometimes, you catch traffic the wrong way, getting from your hotel to the arena was difficult.
“There are people around the program that might prefer one city over another, but once the team gets on the bus or plane and gets there, to me, there isn’t a big difference,” Ryan said. “Wherever it is, people should just have fun, enjoy the tournament from the fan’s standpoint.”
When Bankers Life Fieldhouse houses the tournament, Indiana and Purdue grab a built-in home-court advantage, but Izzo doesn’t mind that. It should be noted his Spartans have won the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA bid twice, both in Chicago. Illinois has prevailed twice in Chicago, whereas Wisconsin owns two titles in Indianapolis.
In fact, only two schools have hoisted the champion’s trophy in both Chicago and Indy: Ohio State and Iowa.