The Big Ten is encountering a bit of a speed bump on the road to expanding its reach to the East Coast.
The conference — based mostly in the nation’s heartland — is hosting its basketball tournament at Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center, marking the first time in the Big Ten Tournament’s 20 years that it is being held outside Chicago or Indianapolis.
It’s all part of the Big Ten’s attempt to gain a new audience in the Mid-Atlantic. This started when the conference added Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, and will continue next year when the basketball tournament heads even farther east to Madison Square Garden in New York.
With 11 of the 14 schools more than a five-hour drive from Washington D.C., however, crowd size could be a problem at this year’s tournament.
As of Tuesday afternoon, tickets for some sessions of the Big Ten Tournament (all of which include two games with the exception of the title game on Sunday) were going for as low as $2 on secondary markets, such as Vivid Seats.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Washington Post that the league “is not just visiting” the Mid-Atlantic, but rather “is going to be living here.” Delany also told the Post that he does not expect sellouts during the tournament.
While tickets to the tournament’s first four sessions are all going for less than $15, the prices do spike when Maryland is involved. The third-seeded Terps will enjoy a big close-to-home advantage when they take the floor for the quarterfinals Friday night.