With the expansion of power conferences in the NCAA, the Big Ten’s territory is creeping ever closer, recently incorporating Maryland and Rutgers into the conference. One of the key opportunities this expansion brings is the 2017 men’s basketball conference tournament, which will be held in DC at the Verizon Center for the first time. In advance of the games, On Tap caught up with the Big Ten Conference’s Communications Director, Brett McWethy.
On Tap: What’s the significance of the tournament coming to DC for the first time?
Brett McWethy: The Big Ten lives in two regions of the country, and has nearly one million alumni located in the Eastern Corridor. For the past 19 years, the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament has been held in Chicago or Indianapolis.
OT: How have the additions of Maryland and Rutgers broadened and strengthened the brand of the Big Ten?
BW: Both are tremendous academic institutions located in a region of the country that is important to the long-term vision of the conference.
OT: What kind of crowd are you expecting out of the DC market?
BW: We were pleased with the number of all-session tickets that were sold. Single-session tickets go on sale on March 6, and we’re hoping the availability of those tickets will lead to some great crowds throughout the week.
OT: What can DC fans expect from Big Ten basketball?
BW: Fans can expect to see a competitive five days of basketball. History has indicated that any team can make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament. We’re excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the tournament with the fans in DC.
OT: Outside of the top five teams (Maryland, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State and Northwestern) in the Big Ten, is there a team you could see making a run that would bolster their chances of getting into the NCAA tournament?
BW: It’s been a competitive environment in the Big Ten all season long. Any of the 14 teams has the ability to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have only met in the championship game three times in the history of the event.
The 2017 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament runs March 8-12 at the Verizon Center. Schedule and ticket prices vary. Check www.primesport.com for more details.
Verizon Center: 601 F St. NW, DC; 202-628-3200; www.primesport.com