Midwest Swing: Big Ten Tournament Edition


minnesota dance team

By Paul M. Banks

INDIANAPOLIS- It was easily the most exciting Big Ten Tournament in history. The first day brought us rumors about coaching changes. The second day we had (for the first time in history) all four games come down to the wire; including one in overtime. And on the third day, we saw the first OT game in tournament semi-finals history and the first multi-overtime game in Big Ten tournament history. And on the final day, the greatest individual performance in BTT history saved his best effort for last, solidifying his MVP status.

In addition to all the great basketball we watched, there were some fun ancillary experiences. Here are some of the best.

-Best line of the tournament, came from a fat Michigan St. reporter dude who said about MSU, “they missed more free throws than I have excess pounds.” I always feel skinny in a room full of sports reporters.

-Former UCLA coach/ESPN analyst Steve Lavin is a friend of mine, and he called four of the tournament games for the World Wide Leader. I caught up with him during halftime of Illinois vs. Wisconsin. After chatting for awhile about DePaul, and the open coaching job there he said, “I saw what you wrote about me. Someone forwarded it to me.”

-This ALWAYS makes me feel nervous when someone tells me that. Even though I was fair and even-handed; like usual, in describing his strengths and weaknesses as a coaching candidate, you just never know how someone will react to your research and opinions. But he said he enjoyed the piece and added “You do a lot of good work there. I enjoy it” in reference to the site I own. And then we exchanged business cards again.

-STOP PLAYING “I GOTTA FEELING” by the Black Eyed Peas at sporting events. PLEASE! This cliché is so tired that even my complaining about has become a very shopworn cliché in itself.

-If you’re a person who uses the word “party” as a verb then Indianapolis…is not the town for you. They call it “nap town” for a reason. There is no “party zone” to speak of downtown, other than the corporate chain bar/restaurants that are within walking distance of Conseco Fieldhouse.

-I didn’t really have a lot of time to party anyway on this trip; except for the Big Ten Network shindig at the Conrad hotel, one of the best soirees I’ve attended in quite awhile. Pretty much the entire media covering the Big Ten were in attendance; meaning we saw some attractive women with odd looking men.charissa thompson big ten network

-I have a great story from this party about BTN personalities Gene Keady (the legendary former Purdue basketball coach) and Glen Mason (former Minnesota football coach), but I’ll tell you next time we hang out and watch a game. This story is not blog-friendly.

-Ditto on a tale Bobby Hansen, former member of the 1992 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, told about former teammate and NBA three-point contest winner Craig Hodges. Again, we’ll save that for sports bar discourse.

-For pics of this weekend, you can view my Facebook album by clicking here

-I was lucky enough to meet and get my picture taken with “Midwest Erin Andrews” or “Big Ten Erin Andrews.” You know her as the Big Ten Network’s Charissa Thompson. She’s great at her job, very knowledgeable and extremely nice. Her fiancé is a nice person too. And I’m seeking to have her on this blog soon as an interview guest. And you know that will do A LOT for page views. And that’s always the most important thing.

-It’s coincidental (you’ll hear announcers sometimes say “it’s ironic,” but they’re wrong! It’s not irony, but coincidence) that the two teams I saw battle each other in the Big Ten Tournament’s final game (Ohio State and Minnesota) are also traveling to my next destination. Both got placed in the Milwaukee Regional, my next stop on the “Midwest Swing.”goldy gopher

-After spending so much time watching and later interviewing these guys, my feelings towards these two programs fundamentally changed. I can’t say that for any other Big Ten rival after this weekend, but I can say this:

-I went from respect and indifference towards Ohio State before this tournament…to outright hating them (in a fan sense of course. As a journalist I am, was and will continue being, an unfeeling robot towards OSU) But as an Illini fan, who also likes Michigan State and Northwestern, I now hate Ohio State more than Michigan, Iowa and Indiana combined.

-I obtained a new appreciation for the University of Minnesota. I went from barely acknowledging their existence to greatly respecting their game. As the Golden Gophers played their way into the NCAA tournament this weekend, my press row seat was coincidentally always close to their bench. I even accidentally bumped into their mascot, Goldy Gopher as we once crossed paths in the hallway.

-Later I thought about how funny (albeit extremely unprofessional and immature) it would have been had I then punched Goldy in the head. Because, as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” taught us, physical violence against mascots is always extremely hilarious.

Here’s a flipshare of the Gophers exiting the court and the pep band, spirit squad celebrating their first ever trip to the Big Ten Tournament Final.

-Hottest cheerleading squad here? Minnesota- hands down! Hottest individual cheerleader? Gopher squad claims her too. It’s really funny because the U of M student body (in my opinion at least) showcased the best looking and most awkward looking person attending the tournament. You should have seen this kid from U of M student media (a poor man’s Napoleon Dynamite) juxtaposed against aforementioned cheerleader. You wouldn’t even think these two creatures were the same species, let alone students at the same university.

-Actually the difference is so stark you wouldn’t even classify them in the same genus. Or the same phylum. But I guess I’ll see both of them in the next round. Along with the rest of the Golden Gophers traveling contingent. And Ohio State too. I have a feeling, I may see the Buckeyes at every step of this journey to the Final Four.


  1. fun to read

  2. paulmbanks says

    maybe I can punch Goldy in the head when I get to Milwaukee, since he’ll be there

  3. paulmbanks says

    And I take back what I said before about not caring about the Gophers, prior to this tourney. their WR Eric Decker is one of my favorite all time Big Ten football players

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