Unlike the Big Ten's Washington, D.C. postseason basketball tournament arrangement, their recently announced New York City Big Ten Tournament does benefit other sports. In addition to the 2018 men's basketball tournament, the Big Ten will host hockey-basketball doubleheaders for three seasons at Madison Square Garden, from 2016-2019, with the first being showdowns between Michigan and Penn State in early 2016.
Given that only six Big Ten teams currently play hockey, you would expect that Ohio State will be playing in one of these doubleheaders eventually (perhaps an Ohio State vs Minnesota hockey/basketball doubleheader?). But after speaking to the Big Ten, they said that future matchups hadn't been decided yet. Maybe the league ultimately decide to flex Rutgers basketball in one of those slots, even if they don't have a Big Ten hockey team.
The benefit here is pretty clear. This gives an additional showcase for Big Ten hockey, a sport that has plenty of room to grow, while also letting both sports play in one of the most iconic venues in the sport. Nobody outside of the greater Washington D.C. metro area dreams of someday playing in the Verizon Center, but plenty do about Madison Square Garden.
Playing a tournament in New York City is also a great opportunity to showcase the league to the tons of Big Ten graduates in live in the area. According to LinkedIn data we collected over the summer, about 185,000 graduates or current students of Big Ten schools are located within the NYC metropolitan area. That's the highest concentration of Big Ten fans anywhere, beating Chicago and Washington, D.C. About 100,000 of these are Rutgers (which makes sense, given that LinkedIn considers the school itself to be in the NYC area), but there are also 25,000 Penn State grads, 18,000 Michigan grads, 14,000 Maryland grads, and 9,000 Wisconsin graduates. When you factor in all the fans of these programs who aren't alumni, and you should have a pretty good sized pool.
That doesn't mean this move is without risks.
While this is great for Big Ten grads who live in New York City, it's inconvenient for folks who don't. We checked average hotel prices when the Big Ten announced the D.C. tournament, and hotels are about three times more expensive in New York than they are in Indianapolis or Chicago. NYC is only realistically drivable for three Big Ten schools, and like with D.C., two of them (Penn State and Rutgers) are typically near the bottom of the Big Ten standings. When you factor in the extra costs with a trip, you are pricing out larger chunks of fanbases, especially those from the western half of the conference.
Even schools that are closer to New York will have to make sacrifices. The Big Ten confirmed to me that Penn State will be considered the home team for their NYC matchup with Michigan, which means one less true home game for the Nittany Lions, and one against a likely marquee opponent too. You probably wouldn't be thrilled about that if you're a Penn State basketball season ticket holder. It will be interesting to see if schools give season ticket holders something else to make up for it (perhaps by scheduling a better home non-conference game that season?), but with a conference schedule that doesn't bring every team to every arena, losing a bigger game could frustrate fans, and maybe even provide a competitive disadvantage.
Speaking of competitive disadvantage, unlike with their D.C. tournament, the Big Ten is actually moving the entire tournament up a week, as a result of the Big East's contract with MSG. That means that Big Ten teams will be out of the limelight during the throes of championship week, and that they might have two weeks off before the NCAA tournament.
Nebraska's Tim Miles said they might even schedule a non-conference game so his team will stay fresh. He might not be the only one. It also means that the Big Ten conference schedule will have to start sooner, which could impact non-conference scheduling, and forcing a more compact Big Ten slate.
The full impacts of that change won't be known for a while, but they are big changes, and that's going to carry some risk.
Recruiting has also been mentioned as a possible benefit, giving the conference a chance for increased exposure in the NYC/NJ/northeast area, but we're a little skeptical that's much of a boon. Much has been made of the Big Ten's urgent need to find new territories for football recruiting, since the distribution of talent has shifted to outside of their boundaries, but that isn't really the case for basketball. Chicago and Indiana are strong hubs for prep talent, and plenty of excellent players have come from Ohio and Michigan in recent years as well.
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, New York had only two blue-clip (four or five star) players in the 2014 class, and three in 2015. The Big Ten isn't likely to get any of them. New Jersey had two in 2014 and four in 2015. These are also super competitive territories, with Big East, ACC and big national brands (Kentucky, Duke, Kansas) making plays at this kids, many of whom have had greater exposure to those programs than Big Ten schools.
That doesn't mean that the Big Ten can't get kids from the area. Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern have recently signed prospects from the northeast. We're not sure that it's necessarily a gamechanger, or that having a tournament in NYC would be a tipping point in and of itself.
What might be a bigger deal, as far as recruits are concerned, is Madison Square Garden, rather than New York, specifically. There aren't many venues left that still carry some real mystique about them, and luckily for the Big Ten, they have access to several, like Wrigley Field in Chicago, Yankee Stadium in NYC, and here, with MSG. There is no reason why a hoops prospect in Kentucky, or Chicago, or Minnesota, wouldn't potentially be excited about playing a game there, and being about to sell that specific experience may have merit. That isn't the case for D.C., or most other venues.
Many fans are not in love with moving postseason events to the East Coast. It potentially prices many out of attending, the recruiting effects are potentially overstated, and Chicago and Indianapolis both do outstanding jobs with the event. But even the most skeptical Big Ten fan can understand why the league wants to get to New York and Madison Square Garden.
It could, however, ultimately prove great for the players, could be beneficial for Big Ten hockey, and it's a nice gesture to the huge Big Ten alumni base in the city, so it's probably worth the risk of doing it once or twice.
Here's hoping the negatives don't outweigh the positives.