Mailbag: D.C., Gavitt games, 14-team tourney format

It has been a busy week, what with the announcements of a basketball series with the Big East and the hoop tourney moving to Washington, D.C., in 2017. Lots of mail on the subject of the Big Ten moving East. So, let’s dig in with some of your thoughts.

While I live here on the East Coast and it benefits me, Jim Delany has cheapened the B1G brand by moving the basketball tourney to Washington. Hanging your hat on an East Coast market that has little college sports interest seems foolish. – Greg Zyntek

I think we all know the challenges that come with this move East. No doubt, the New York and D.C. markets are driven more by pro sports—especially the NY market. Still, there’s unmatched potential for the Big Ten to tap into. The announcements this week were a first step, an initial volley into the East to begin to establish the Big Ten brand in two mega markets.

I would feel more comfortable embracing this change if the change were for the right reasons. The additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten do not add value to the conference in terms of an improved product on the field and/or the court. Rutgers’ athletic department is a mess and Maryland athletic department was near insolvency. The only, I stress ONLY, reason why these two universities were added is because of Jim Delany’s desire to add the Washington and New York TV markets. It’s money, it’s greed, is not tradition and prestige. – Andrew Jaslowski

No doubt, Rutgers’ athletic prowess is a bit dubious. But Maryland has a nice history. Most folks think the athletic programs for both schools will improve over time because of the affiliation with the Big Ten. The conference’s resources no doubt will be a boon to each athletic department. Improved facilities and the Big Ten prestige figure to have positive impacts on the new schools over time.

These announcements are great for Maryland and Rutgers as they join the Big Ten, but what if anything was done to “build a bridge” when Nebraska joined the Big Ten? We’re the farthest away from the East Coast. It’s really going to be hard to follow our teams. Nebraska fans are worried. This is what happened when four Texas teams joined the Big 12. Everything moved to Texas. – Lisa Sedivy

Nebraska is fairly close to some Big Ten schools, so perhaps there wasn’t much feeling that a “bridge” had to be built. The Big Ten is drawn into West and East for football, so I don’t know what Nebraska fans should be concerned about. There is no imbalance or major shift to the East. By trying to establish an Eastern presence, the Big Ten is helping all the schools. A Big Ten that is strong out East will make the entire conference better in many respects.

The Big Ten is a Midwest conference and the people in that area look forward to being able to drive to Chicago or Indy to watch their teams play. It’s absolutely ludicrous to move this tournament that far away from the fans. It’s all about money and the conference obviously doesn’t care about fans that have supported it for all these years. – John

Look, the Big Ten’s roots always will be in the Midwest. And the basketball tourney is going to rotate between the Midwest and East. The Big Ten has to grow and try to change. To stand pat would have been a poor decision. Are there reasons to have doubts or concerns? Sure. Only time will tell if this works. But, there’s no turning back. The Big Ten is trying to grow and prosper. Embracing change can be difficult—and scary. But, as I always have heard, … change or perish.

What will be the basketball tourney format with 14 teams? – Karen Retter

It probably will look a lot like how the SEC has been doing it the last two years with 14 teams. The SEC basketball tournament is seeded 1-14. The tournament begins on Wednesday with matchups between the No. 11 and No. 14 seeds and the No. 12 and No. 13 seeds. The winners advance to meet the sixth and fifth seeds, respectively, on Thursday. Also playing on Thursday are the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds and the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds. The top four seeds in the tournament receive byes until Friday’s quarterfinal round.

DC sportscasters were intrigued about a possible Maryland-Georgetown game in the Dave Gavitt Tipoff. Tell Jim Delany to make it happen. – DCSpartansAlum

No doubt, that would be a great Beltway clash, and I bet it happens. That’s exactly why the Gavitt Tipoff Series was started, to create intriguing matchups like that. In fact, Georgetown vs. Maryland was one of 10 Gavitt Tipoff matchups I want to see.

Does the start of the Gavitt Tipoff series signal the end of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge? Also, do you see Penn State in the near future being really competitive in the league? – Ed Stumm

The Big Ten-ACC Challenge will continue. So, you add that to the Gavitt games featuring Big East teams, and you can see there will be some intriguing non-conference games for Big Ten teams. As for Penn State, yes, I think it can be competitive. It already has shown in the past it could compete. Pat Chambers isn’t far off. Having Maryland and Rutgers in the league will allow an Eastern school like PSU even more access into some hot recruiting areas in New York and D.C.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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