For the second time in my Penn State career I was fortunate to go to Indianapolis for the men’s Big Ten Tournament. The first time I went was in 2011, which was a tournament where Penn State won three games to eventually earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately the Nittany Lions didn’t win a game this year but my fellow Penn Staters and I still had a great time watching all the other great Big Ten teams and taking in the city of Indianapolis. So here are some things that I observed during my time at the tournament:
- Downtown Indianapolis is pretty cool. It’s pretty much Big Ten central. There are streets for each Big Ten school and each school has some kind of food establishment that’s dedicated to that school (I’m jealous of Wisconsin because they have Buffalo Wild Wings). And you can get a good sense of fan representation at the tournament just by walking around downtown and seeing all the different colors and apparel of the various Big Ten schools.
- Back when I went in 2011, the venue of the tournament was named Conseco Fieldhouse, and it has since been renamed Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It’s where the Pacers play and there is a lot of fascinating Pacers/other Indiana basketball things to check out in the arena. Larry Bird, John Wooden and Reggie Miller are just a few names that are profiled heavily throughout Bankers Life.
- In terms of the games being played in Bankers Life, there were a few things that kind of annoyed me. The main thing was that there were no team stats visible to the crowd anywhere around the arena. The crowd could see individual stats for the players on the floor at the time but there were no team stats for people to see, and I’m always interested in certain team stats throughout games. Also, the numbers for fouls and timeouts on the scoreboard were really small. I had to squint to see them.
- We stayed in a hotel about 15 minutes from downtown Indianapolis. Also staying in our hotel were students from Minnesota, which was the team that Penn State just so happened to play in the first round. Contrary to what some would probably think, there was zero animosity between us and we actually befriended them. The fire alarm in the hotel went off one night and everyone had to evacuate the hotel. While we were waiting to go back inside, we (Penn State students) had a “sing off” with the Minnesota students. We alternated singing our respective fight songs/cheers and it was a lot of fun.
- For the championship game between Michigan and Michigan State we pledged our allegiance to Sparty and stood/cheered with them. Not only did they give us some awesome Nike Izzone (name of the MSU student section) shirts, but they have a lot of cool cheers. However, the Michigan State students at the tournament weren’t quite what you see on TV when watching a game being played in East Lansing. On TV, they’re constantly loud and energetic, but this crew in Indianapolis seemed disinterested at times. Unlike Penn State, they’re used to consistent success and probably take it for granted at times. But I feel like we Penn Staters were much more into it in comparison to the Michigan State students. Nevertheless, I’m glad the Spartans won.
- Michigan’s student section was the most impressive one of the tournament. They brought about 40 students and even though I really dislike their school, they cheered loudly and consistently whenever the Wolverines were playing. It also seemed like Michigan had the most overall fans in Indianapolis, along with Michigan State fans and Ohio State fans. Obviously there were a lot of Indiana fans, but I’m sure there would’ve been a lot more if the Hoosiers didn’t lose in the first round.
- Since I’m from New Jersey and go to school in central Pennsylvania, I rarely get to experience the greatness of Steak N’ Shake. So I just wanted to point out that Steak N’ Shake should probably move further east because I could consume cheap, delicious burgers and awesome milkshakes quite a lot.
Those were just a few things that I saw in Indianapolis/at the tournament that I wanted to point out. Even though Penn State was ousted early, it was still a great experience to see the other teams play and interact with other Big Ten fan bases. Penn State’s season isn’t over as they accepted an invitation to play in the CBI. The Nittany Lions will host Hampton this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.