Indiana coach Archie Miller embracing unusual tourney locale

Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (13) drives to the basket past Rutgers forward Candido Sa during the first half of a game earlier this season in Piscataway, N.J. The two teams will meet in the Big Ten Conference Tournament in New York City Thursday. (By The Associated Press)

The Big Ten Conference has caught its fair share of criticism for conducting its Big Ten Tournament this week in New York City, a locale that really doesn’t resonate with the fan bases of the involved programs, and vice versa in terms of the New York basketball fans.

Yes, it was a terrible idea implemented by the league leadership. This is an event that needs to rotate between Indianapolis and Chicago and no other places. However, you won’t find first-year Indiana coach Archie Miller criticizing the decision or at least publicly.

“The games at Madison Square Garden, it’s a fantastic place to play,” Miller said Tuesday. “I can see why our commissioner (Jim Delany) and our league work so hard to be able to get in there.”

The Hoosiers (16-14) will face Rutgers (14-18) Thursday at (approximately) 9 p.m. (BTN).

The Scarlet Knights beat Minnesota Wednesday 65-54 in the opening round.

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Though the attendance for this week’s games is not expected to be impressive, Miller said just competing in the famed arena (Madison Square Garden) and in the largest city in the country makes this a special opportunity.

He also cited the timing of the tournament isn’t a negative; it’s a positive in his mind.

Miller said instead of competing for every basketball fan’s attention next week, the Big Ten can dominate the national landscape today.

“It’s monumental to be able to play in Madison Square Garden,” Miller explained, “and being able to play a week early where you don’t have to flip the channel to see what’s going on in any other league.

“It should put all eyes on us this weekend.”

Miller grew up in the East (Pittsburgh) and played in the Atlantic Coast Conference (North Carolina State). He also has coached in the Atlantic 10 and he feels that New York City is special at this time of a basketball season.

“You really have to experience it,” Miller said. “New York City at this time of year, when March is coming around, there’s not a better place to be in terms of the buzz with the media.”

Not only is Miller excited about the opportunity to play on an iconic stage, he said that his players are as well.

“Sort of all those games that were crunched into one jam-packed conference schedule are going to put us on a national stage, being Madison Square Garden,” Miller said. “That will be a good thing for the league once the games start to get tipped

“Our guys are excited to go. We had a great work out yesterday and anticipate having hopefully a good one again today, and you know, we really want to go there and be prepared to play as well as we can. You know, we want to advance. So we’re excited to get to New York.”

The Hoosiers will have had five days off between their regular season finale (an 80-78 double-overtime loss to Ohio State) and Thursday. Miller said that allowed his team to do a couple of beneficial things.

First, the Indiana players got healthy and rested, and secondly, not knowing the specific opponent gave the Indiana coaching staff the opportunity to just worry about Indiana and how their team plays.

“It really focuses you in on you,” Miller said of the unknown opposition. “As a player or as a coach, when you get ready to have some time to prepare, sometimes the best preparation is just you going and playing, competing, working towards being a better player, being a better team and focusing on the things that over the course of the season that you hope you have to be able to do well at this time of year.

“Part of that’s energy. Part of that’s health and freshness, and part of it is just feeling really confident about who you are and what you do.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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