Big Ten enters unusually long layoff between tournaments

That's the trade-off the conference had to make to play its tournament at Madison Square Garden for the first time.

Posted: Mar 5, 2018 11:52 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 9:21 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Big Ten teams have a longer layoff than they are accustomed to heading into the NCAA Tournament.

That's the trade-off the conference had to make to play its tournament at Madison Square Garden for the first time.

In years past, the Big Ten championship was the final conference tournament game played before the NCAA field was selected.

On TV, it was the lead-in for CBS to the Selection Sunday show.

After playing in Sunday's championship game, Michigan and Purdue will have at least 10 days off before playing an NCAA Tournament game on March 15 or 16.

Michigan coach John Beilein, whose Wolverines won the Big Ten title on Sunday, has coached teams with similar a layoff at Canisius and Richmond and didn't seem too concerned about his guys cooling off. Michigan has won nine straight.

"In a perfect world that would be great," Beilien said when asked if he preferred to play this Thursday or Friday.

"But as I said to the crowd, to play in this arena in front of that crowd, which was, I feel, was very pro-Michigan, that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. So it will be worth the wait.

"I'll remind everybody, there's been some great NCAA Tournament teams that win their tournament like this Sunday or this Monday: Gonzaga; Wichita State; Butler. These teams all have been great NCAA Tournament teams ... You work around it. We'll give our guys some rest, but we'll be practicing."

Michigan State and Ohio State are also expected to receive at-large bids to the NCAAs. Michigan State was knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday and Ohio State was eliminated Friday.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Hall of Fame Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "And the best part is we're on spring break next week.

"So we might just go to the beach, East Lansing, and see if we can play a little beach basketball and we're going to do something. We talked about doing something in Chicago and going over and seeing (Denzel Valentine) play. We might go down and see the Pistons or do something as a team. We'll get better. We'll probably practice a lot during that time.

"I mean, it will be one time in my life the NCAA has no rules on us. It's — we're on break and we don't have any games. That doesn't happen very often. In fact, it's never happened to me. So knowing me, I'm going to take advantage of that."

Then there's Penn State, which lost in the semifinals, and Nebraska, which lost in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Now they wait more than a week and hope for an at-large bid.

"A little nerve-wracking thinking about it. This is the first time we've been put in this situation, but I'm excited," Penn State's Josh Reeaves said.

"Just going to take some days to rest, get our bodies right, recuperate as a team and see what happens."

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Sunday he would like a return to the Garden, but only "under the right circumstances." He acknowledged before the tournament that condensing the regular season to accommodate an early tournament was not a good thing for the teams.

But the Big East has the Garden locked up through 2026 the week before the NCAA selection show.

The Big Ten teams could benefit from a little extra time off. Purdue's Vincent Edwards sprained his left ankle in practice a couple of weeks ago and noted how sore it was after playing three games in three days.

"Anyone that's injured or tired, that's going to help them. Vincent Edwards — his ankle looked pretty good last night (in the quarterfinals), but that would be a good example of a few more days of treatment, and that type of thing," former coach and CBS analyst Bill Raftery said.

"And a lot of kids hit the wall in two or three days. Now they got 10, 11 or 12, depending on winning and losing. I think coaches will figure something out."

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