The Big Ten Tournament is a middle child.
No one outside of the conference pays much attention to it because they’re too busy watching the golden boy of postseason conference tournaments, the Big East Tournament.
Year after year, the Big East Tournament provides college basketball fans across the country with classic games and classic performances in the mecca of the basketball world (Madison Square Garden).
There was the six-overtime game between Connecticut and Syracuse in 2009 and Kemba Walker’s epic one-man run to win the Big East Tournament (and ultimately the National Championship) last year.
If the Connecticut-West Virginia, Connecticut-Syracuse and Cincinnati-Georgetown games are any indication, this year’s Big East Tournament won’t be any different.
But times might be changing. The middle child might make a very loud cry for attention this year.
The past few years, the Big East has dominated college basketball. Yeah the conference has a higher number of teams than any other top-six conference, but the conference was stacked like a magician’s deck of cards.
That’s not the case in 2012.
Top to bottom, no conference in the country is stronger than the Big Ten. Five of the 12 Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 15 in the country, compared to three out of 16 teams in the Big East.
Last year at this time, the Big East had seven teams in the top 25. This year they have just four.
The fact is when talented teams already familiar with each other get together with high stakes on the line, there are going to be some high-intensity, quality basketball games played.
This year, the tournament with the most overall talent will be in Indianapolis and not coincidentally, that’s where the best postseason conference tournament will be as well.
To put in perspective how tough the Big Ten tournament will be this year, No. 14 Wisconsin, the fourth-seeded team in the Big Ten, will have to play their first game of the tournament against No. 15 Indiana Friday.
So much for a warm-up.
And don’t forget, the regular season of the Big Ten ended in a tie.
Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State finished with identical 13-5 records in the conference and split their regular season meetings.
You don’t think players will be fighting for bragging rights?
You don’t think Michigan State is furious they lost their final two games of the year including its Senior Day against OSU?
There will be emotion. There will be passion. And in the case of some teams, there will be desperation.
Mix those things together and it’s a basketball fan’s heaven.
Best of all, the whole thing will be broadcast live to you by the most over-the-top but awesome commentator in sports, Gus Johnson.
ESPN columnist Bill Simmons always talks about the “Law Of Gus.”
It states that in games he announces, crazy things happen. Buzzer beaters, comebacks, men with overgrown hair and a mole mustache crying in the middle of the court (Adam Morrison), you name it. If Gus is there, everything is in play.
The law has been proven and re-proven so many times. It’s only a matter of time before it gets published in a scientific journal.
The Big East Tournament may have Madison Square Garden, but I’ll take better teams, unfinished conference feuds and ridiculously over-dramatic announcing.
I’ll take the Big Ten tournament.