March Madness. Those two little words mean so much to so many people. For some, it's the signal of spring and a breaking out of the doldrums of winter. For others, it is the sign of Spring Break and a chance to get away from everything. Still others think of these two words as the greatest three weeks in all of the sporting year. Yes, folks, it's that time again, when the "experts" get together and pick the 65 teams that are fortunate enough to make the field, otherwise known as the "Big Dance". In years past, selection has been pretty much obvious for many of the teams, but this year in particular the bar has been raised. There is parity this year like in no other previous year, and the committee may have a difficult time on their hands determining which teams get in and which ones are left out. There seems to always be controversy surrounding the teams that for reason or another didn't make it, but those that do more than make up for it. Take the Big Ten Conference for instance. This year the Big Ten was very competitive, and up until the last day of the regular season, the seedings for the conference tournament was still in doubt. The top three seeds, Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue pretty much stayed up near the top for most of the season, but it was the fourth through ninth seeds that were in doubt. A cluster of teams went into the final weekend not knowing where they would fall, but the stage is now set and this is how the chips fell:
Thursday's games start off with Minnesota (#8) taking on Northwestern (#9) in the first game of the day, followed by Michigan (#7) battling Iowa (#10) in the second contest. The third and final game of the opening day will feature Penn State (#6) taking to the court against Indiana (#11). Friday's games begin early with the top seed Michigan State taking on the winner of the Minnesota-Northwestern game. The second game of the day on Friday will feature Wisconsin (#4) going up against Ohio State (#5). The evening session will pit Illinois (#2) taking on the Michigan-Iowa winner, followed by Purdue (#3) battling the winner of the Penn State-Indiana game. The way the conference season has gone, this year's tournament will be one of high excitement and very unpredictable as a lot of the teams are similar in talent. This should be a fun four days!
Which leads me to my next topic, where should the Big Ten Tournament be held? The Big Ten currently has a contract with the city of Indianapolis through 2011 to host the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse, and then once that contract is up, bids can once again be submitted for other possible locations. Chicago has been the only other city to host the tournament since its inception 11 years ago, so the debate rages of which city is better suited to host the tournament. Both cities have their selling points, but in my opinion, once stands out much more clear than the other one. Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States, and has a lot to offer in the way of fine dining, shopping and other attractions. Plus, the United Center is affectionately known as the "House That Jordan Built". Indianapolis is a smaller city than Chicago, and their arena, Conseco, isn't as well known as the UC. But there are other characteristics that make this decision a no-brainer. Chicago, as has been previously mentioned, has many nice establishments, but they are located at a distance from the United Center, as are many of the quality hotels. Plus, the area around the arena isn't the best place to be after dark. Indy, on the other hand, is nestled in the downtown area close to both restaurants and hotels, and everything is a short walk away. Just park your car and go!
Seeing everyone from the different schools all walking the downtown areas also gives off a sense of being, and Indianapolis plays along with the part by renaming each of the streets downtown to honor each of the schools. Plus, an official gathering place is set up for each of the participating schools to add excitement and camaraderie for everyone. So, based on these selling points, there is no question where I think the tournament should be held.
Other cities have been mentioned as possible hosts of the Big Ten Tournament, namely Detroit, but Indianapolis is pretty much centrally located and for what it all offers, there should be no debate.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with me that Indianapolis is a good place to host the Big Ten Tournament? I welcome any and all comments to this question.