Big East Basketball Still Strong After Well-Attended Conference Tourney
The Big East men's basketball tournament wrapped up Saturday with its highest attendance number in the five years of the current 10-team format at MSG. The tourney drew capacity crowds in three of the five sessions last week, including Saturday's Villanova-Providence title game at 19,812. Overall, the tourney averaged 18,789 fans, up from 17,556 last year (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Zach Schonbrun wrote this year's Big East tourney was "another highly competitive tournament for a league that can still make the case to be the nation's toughest." The title game, played "in front of a capacity crowd for the tournament's third night in a row, also harkened back to the halcyon years." Meanwhile, pressure from competing leagues like the Big Ten and ACC "trying to encroach on the Big East's turf" is just one of Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman's "persistent concerns." She admitted the other is "financial solvency." Ackerman: "Long term, for a conference like ours, without football revenue, the question will be whether that will matter over time. Right now, it hasn't mattered. We're in good shape." Ackerman also said that the league was "content with 10 teams, although Gonzaga, of the West Coast Conference, has been consistently rumored as a candidate to extend the conference's reach to the opposite coast." Ackerman said of the league's success, "The low number together with the common nature of our schools has been a contributing factor" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11).
PLEASE COME BACK SOON: In N.Y., George Willis reported Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment is "bidding for a return" of the ACC tournament to Barclays Center in '21 after it goes to Charlotte's Spectrum Center and the Greensboro Coliseum the next two years. BS&E CEO Brett Yormark said, "I've been talking to commissioner (John) Swofford about being part of that regular rotation. ... I'm very confident they're going to be coming back to Brooklyn. They've really enjoyed their experience here." This was the second straight year the conference held its tournament in Brooklyn, and "attendance at the games has lived up to expectations." Friday's semifinal round, highlighted by North Carolina-Duke, drew a crowd of 18,157, the "largest crowd ever to witness a college basketball game at Barclays Center." The Atlantic 10 will be held at Barclays "for the next three years" while a return of the ACC "is being negotiated" (N.Y. POST, 3/11). In Virginia, David Teel noted attendance "was sparse" for the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions, though both of Thursday's quarterfinal sessions "were listed at 17,732." Swofford said, "The facility is outstanding, and the people that run it are even more outstanding and they have absolutely bent over backwards to provide anything we needed. ... The exposure that we’ve received from a national sense and in this market has been everything we could ask for." He added, "It’s a market we should be in." MSG "is the preferred" N.Y. venue, but the Big East is "booked there" through '26. Swofford said, "The Garden has a long history with the Big East, and I respect that. Our league respects that. If down the road for some reason something changes in terms of availability, we’d have an interest there, just as we have a great interest here" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 3/10).