The Big Ten made it official Tuesday, announcing that the 2017 men's basketball tournament would be played at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
It will mark the first time the tournament will ever be played outside either Chicago (United Center) or Indianapolis (Bankers Life Fieldhouse) since the tournament began back in 1998.
"We're thrilled to announce plans to host the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament in Washington, D.C.," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "We have a great amount of respect for basketball in this region of the country and are pleased that we were able to place this tournament at the Verizon Center at this first possible opportunity in March 2017."
While it might sound like a strange move for lifelong Big Ten fans here in the Midwest, it's just the latest in a series of moves by the conference to show how serious it is about making the East Coast part of Big Ten Country.
Many figured the additions of Rutgers and Maryland to the conference — the two schools officially join July 1 — was just an attempt for the conference to get its television netwrok to reach massive media markets such as New York and Washington. But the Big Ten has done more than that to establish itself in the region, opening an office in New York, partnering with football bowl games in the region and teaming with the Big East for an annual eight-game basketball series.
"We're very excited the Big Ten conference has selected our nation's capital as the site for the 2017 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament," Maryland director of athletics Kevin Anderson said. "This is yet another example of the Big Ten's commitment to our region and provides fans of Maryland and all conference teams on the East Coast easier access to enjoy this outstanding event."
While the flurry of activity out East might be great news for the new member institutions, it could prove strange and even upsetting for the conference's traditional fans in the Midwest. After all, the basketball tournament venues in Chicago and Indianapolis were centrally located in the conference's footprint, even with the addition of Penn State in the 1990s, and those cities would have remained generally in the middle of the conference with the arrivals of Rutgers and Maryland. Washington, D.C., on the other hand, is at the conference's easternmost border, which figures to make travel difficult for fans of the majority of the Big Ten's teams.
It is important to note that no location has been announced for the tournament beyond 2017. Next season, the tournament will be held in Chicago before heading back to Indianapolis in 2016.