Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Big East coaches aren’t threatened by Big Ten, ACC invading New York
By ADAM ZAGORIA
After Michigan won the first Big Ten Tournament ever played at Madison Square Garden, the Big East Conference will now take center stage at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
The Big Ten moved its conference up a week early in order to gain access to the Garden and capitalize on the New York City market. That appears to be a one-shot deal and the Big Ten will return to Chicago next year.
The Big East has a contract with the Garden through the 2025-26 season and will continue to play during the week leading up to Selection Sunday. The tournament runs Wednesday-Saturday this week.
“We’ve been the mainstay over the 30 some-odd-years at Madison Square Garden,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “We have an unbelievable relationship with them. I think our product has been really, really good, I think the turnout’s been great.”
Of course, the Big East won’t be alone in New York City this week.
For the second straight year, the ACC Tournament runs Tuesday-Saturday at Barclays Center before shifting back to Charlotte, N.C. in 2019 and then Greensboro, N.C. in 2020. The ACC hasn’t yet announced where its postseason tournaments will be held beyond 2020, raising the possibility that they could come back through the Big Apple.
The A-10, which held its championship at Barclays Center in 2015 and ’16, will return to Barclays Center for three years from 2019-21.
“As far as the other tournaments being in New York a week before and then the same week, really I’m only concerned with the Big East and that’s all our concentration should be on,” Cooley said. “The fact that we’ll be the only show in town next year is great.
“At the same time, everybody’s always vying for the market and everybody wants to play in Madison Square Garden, so I’m just happy we have a longstanding relationship with them, I hope it stays strong and continues to grow.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team won four straight Big East regular-season titles before finishing second to Xavier this year, said he’s come around to thinking that having other leagues invade New York in March is actually a good thing.
“I’ve learned to appreciate the other teams coming in,” Wright said. “It just brings more basketball excitement to New York City.
“When the ACC or Big Ten comes in, that’s not natural for them. They get to enjoy it, that’s good. I think it just brings more hype to the city and Northeastern basketball. That’s what the Big East is. So I’m all for it now. It’s our home, it’s what we’ve always done, it’s who we are. And so I think it just helps basketball in New York and if you help basketball in New York at this time of year, you’re helping the Big East.”
Xavier coach Chris Mack, whose team won the league, said having the Garden is a huge recruiting pitch, especially to recruits on the East Coast.
“It’s awesome, it’s what we sell in recruiting,” Mack said, adding it’s especially key in the East.
“It may not have the same ring to a Midwestern kid that it does to a kid from New York City or Providence, R.I.,” Mack said. “But yeah, you can bet your bottom dollar that guys that we recruit on the East Coast, we’re going to talk about that, show highlights of that tournament and all the great moments that that’s tournament provided.”
Asked if the Big East has to show anything this week at the Garden to prove itself, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard bristled at the suggestion.
“I don’t think we have to show anything,” he said. “We’re established. It’s a tradition now, the Big East Tournament in New York. I got the same people calling me and asking me for tickets Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. We’re part of New York, the Garden has been phenomenal to us.
“Just because the other leagues come in and play, it really doesn’t have an effect on how great the Big East Tournament is and how much history there is in New York and Madison Square Garden. So I don’t really think about it that much about the other conferences coming in. We’re established, we’re proven and we’re going to keep rolling.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.