The Big Ten hosted their men’s basketball media day at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois, on Thursday and Commissioner Jim Delany got WILD in his opening statement to the collected press.
Next four years, Chicago, Indianapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis. Long-term, as noted, we’ll have probably 80% of our post-season play in the Midwestern region, probably 20% out east.
We had a very successful opportunity to play in New York City, very good crowds, great excitement. We’ve talked to them about the future. We’ve presented them with a powerful promotion plan that we think, along with other conferences, if you can elevate Madison Square Garden, we think we can elevate that to the next level with regard to a college basketball post-season.
We’re not going to be able to play early, but if we can play in a regular date in the out years, that would be something we would try to achieve with really strong presence 80% of the time in the Midwest. But that’s part of our conference territory. We want to be in our legacy territory, as well as out east from time to time.
I’m going to drill down into that to highlight the part of this that’s relevant to us, the fans of Big East teams.
We’ve talked to [Madison Square Garden] about the future. We’ve presented them with a powerful promotion plan that we think, along with other conferences, if you can elevate Madison Square Garden, we think we can elevate that to the next level with regard to a college basketball post-season. We’re not going to be able to play early...
Well, Jim, I hate to break it to you, but if you can’t play your tournament early like you did in 2018, then you’re not playing at Madison Square Garden any time soon. As pointed out when you dorks announced that you were playing the tournament at MSG a week earlier than normal, the Big East has a contract with The World’s Most Famous Arena that runs through the 2026 Big East tournament.
Let me say that again: The Big East will be at Madison Square Garden on the weekend right before Selection Sunday every year between now and 2026.
That, for those of you who are like Jim Delany and can not do math very well, is the next eight seasons.
The Big East is not going anywhere, and for Jim Delany to even pretend to expect MSG to listen to their absurd “promotion plan” is the height of crazy old man level thinking that you only get from a 70 year old who is still allowed to be in charge of something.
This isn’t just me bashing Jim Delany because “haw haw Big East good, Big Ten bad.” Madison Square Garden has absolutely no financial incentive to break their contract with the Big East, much less not sign an extension when the appropriate time comes up over the next half-decade or so. The Associated Press helpfully compiled the attendance data from the 2018 conference tournaments from all across the country, and well knock me over with a feather, but the Big East had the best average attendance out of all 32 conferences. MSG hosted an average of 18.790 Big East fans for the five sessions of the tournament, and the building was sold out — listed on Wikipedia as 19,812 — for three of those. The Big 12 was the second best conference last March, averaging 17.850 fans at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
You’ll notice that the Big 12 is not the Big Ten. How did Jim Delany’s traveling carnival do at MSG? According to that article I linked you to, the Big Ten averaged “nearly” 15,200 people in attendance and managed just one sellout in seven sessions.
Now, the B1G stans amongst you will attempt to tell me that 105,700 tickets sold (15,100 x 7, because they were “almost” to 15,200) is more than 93,950 tickets sold (18,790 x 5), so MSG should be super happy with what the Big Ten brought to the table. That’s bunk. 1) It’s less than 12,000 tickets in two less sessions, so calm down, and 2) MSG is definitely going to be happier with multiple sellouts in a shorter time period, because that allows them to book other events, not to mention not send the Knicks and the Rangers out on longer road trips. Even if the powers that be at MSG did like the pure idea of selling 12,000 extra tickets, the fact of the matter is that Delany himself has said that they only intend on heading out of the Midwest twice a decade. 80% Midwest, 20% out east. Does MSG want guaranteed yearly sellouts or a tourist wandering in and selling a solid number of tickets once, maybe twice a decade? Seems like an obvious choice to me.
The Big East fans amongst you should be particularly interested in something Delany said later on in response to a question about 80% of the conference tournament taking place in the Midwest with the next four being in Indianapolis and Chicago.
There will be other opportunities for other cities to express interest.
If I can translate for a moment here, because Delany’s not going to tip his hand without a guarantee that something will finally come together: Milwaukee has a brand new NBA arena in the middle of Big Ten country and we’d be idiots to not run the tournament there if they’re interested in hosting it.
Kids, I don’t know how to tell you this. If you thought I was an annoying jackass about the Big Ten hosting their conference tournament in the building that hosts the Big East tournament and occasionally operates as home to St. John’s, I can’t even imagine what you’ll think about my attitude regarding B1G putting their tournament in Marquette’s home building just because it’s new and shiny and they just can’t flipping help themselves.
One last thing to address from Jim Delany generally foaming at the mouth and saying things he probably shouldn’t say out loud in front of people. This season, the Big Ten will play a 20 game conference schedule in men’s basketball. (Not in women’s basketball, though, even though the reasons for adopting the schedule for both sports would be the same. Interesting.) Delany wrapped up his opening statement with this stretch, and forgive me for it being long, but I want you to get his full context:
I should say that there are challenges in college basketball, especially with regard to November and December games. We’ve tried to enhance that. We’ve tried to enhance it with the ACC Challenge, with the Gavitt Games, and you’ll see this year, everywhere we play home and away games early December and late November. It has grown in an amazing way.
30 years ago we had 15 bowls, started on December 25th, ended January 1st. Today the bowl season starts earlier, you have conference championship games, goes all the way to January 10th. We have to find ways to present basketball. We shouldn’t give up November and December. We’re going to try to have more meaningful games, we have 22 pretty powerful games. We’re not going to go to cede the college sports scene to college football. We want college basketball to be successful, while college football is doing well, as well. We’ve given a lot of thought of presenting college basketball through our partners, we have the cooperation of our coaches on this. I think it’s going to be good for us going along.
I think others will adopt 20-game schedules, play each other more. I don’t think there’s anything less interesting than a bad college basketball in the month of November. We’re trying to improve it.
Well, first of all, others already have adopted a 20 game schedule, although the ACC won’t start til next season. Know what’s going on in the sport before you open your trap, would you, Jim?
Anyway, I wanted to focus on the last part most of all, specifically this:
I don’t think there’s anything less interesting than a bad college basketball in the month of November.
[exasperated sigh] Oh, Jim, Jim, Jim, you crazy, senile, old man.
There are 32 conferences in Division 1 college basketball. According to KenPom.com, when you look at games only played between league opponents, the Big Ten was not a very good league. They ranked in the bottom 10 — arguably the definition of “bad college basketball” — in Free Throw Rate, Steal Rate, Three Point Attempts Rate, and two-point shooting percentage. The Big Ten was in the bottom half of the country in Effective Field Goal Percentage and free throw shooting percentage. The Big Ten was the 13th most efficient conference in the country. Out of 32. 13th. One spot behind the Atlantic 10, one spot ahead of the MAAC.
You know what bad basketball in November looks like, Jim? YOUR LEAGUE. IT’S BAD BASKETBALL, no matter the month. Your teams play bad basketball. You want to fix it? Don’t pretend that Rutgers hosting Eastern Michigan on November 19th is bad for the sport in general and that playing an extra game against Illinois or whoever is going to light the world on fire. Your league plays a nationally reviled style of basketball — Ethan Happ and his inability to shoot from more than 5 feet away from the rim is one of two unanimous choices for your preseason all-league team, for God’s sake, and I can’t actually argue with the choice — and you come off like a jackass when you start acting like playing low end non-conference games is the actual problem.