Congratulations! You made the brilliant decision to spend your hard-earned money not only on tickets to attend the 2018 Big Ten Basketball Tournament, but also on a trip to the greatest city in the world. Chances are you’re going to be pretty overwhelmed upon landing in the Big Apple. You might get lost in the hustle and bustle. You might not know how the Big Ten teams have fared in 2018. You might have no idea what to watch for once the Tournament tips. You might not know the names of any important players. Worst of all, you might stick out among the locals like a sore thumb. If you fear any of the above scenarios (or all of them) then today is your lucky day! Without further ado, I present the Ultimate Big Ten Tournament Guide for Tourists!
Getting off the plane and into your overpriced, undersized hotel room
You made it. The trip from the Midwest to New York probably wasn’t long, but it was certainly a disgusting experience. Why? Because flying into NYC means you must go through JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark. All you need to know about these airports is that you will want to leave and get into a cab as fast as humanly possible. In order to do so, you must make sure you use the lavatory on your airplane. This will save you valuable time and protect you from the horrors of an NYC public restroom. While you are waiting to pick up luggage from the carousel, have your baggage receipts handy. Due to a history of theft, an airport employee will check to see if your receipts match your luggage when you exit the carousel area. Once you are outside, wait in line for a cab. Some cabbies will try to tell you that they know the exact price to drive you where you are going and that they are going to charge that price as a fixed rate, while turning off the cab meter to save you money. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM. The meter never lies. Cab drivers do...frequently.
Where to eat
By now, you’ve worked up an appetite. The good news: you are in the food capital of America! Italian food? Check. Cuban? Got that too. French... You know what? I’m gonna save some time. New York has the best of literally every cuisine imaginable. You name it, NYC’s got it. It will be extremely difficult to make choices in the abundant sea of delicious options in the Big Apple. This shortlist will make it easier: (Note: DO NOT be a mook and eat at Applebee’s or the Olive Garden)
Steak: Peter Luger Steakhouse (178 Broadway, Brooklyn)
So you want to indulge in a steak dinner? Look no further than Peter Luger. This Brooklyn institution is famous for its dry aged porterhouse (the undisputed steak king of New York). Peter Luger’s might not be close to midtown, but it is definitely worth the trip.
Insider advice: Order the “sizzling bacon” to start and anything with homemade “schlag” (whipped cream) for dessert. Luger’s might tempt you with other cuts of meat. Don’t bite. Get the porterhouse. Also, bring lots of cash. They don’t accept credit cards.
Additional options: Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Keens Steakhouse
Dim Sum: Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers St., Manhattan)
The exterior of this 98-year-old dim sum house looks like a storefront from a set in a kung-fu gang movie. However, the interior is surprisingly warm and pleasant. Nom Wah offers up not only some of the best dim sum in chinatown, but unique dining environment.
Additional options: Shun Lee, Joe’s Shanghai
Hot Dogs: Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave., Brooklyn)
There is nothing more American than eating a boardwalk hotdog on a hot summer day. Actually, nevermind. Watching Joey Chestnut eat 72 hotdogs is as American as it gets. In all seriousness, you should try to visit this legendary Coney Island hot dog palace if you can.
Insider advice: No matter what, don’t eat 72 hotdogs.
Additional options: Gray’s Papaya, Papaya King
Italian: Eataly (200 Fifth Ave., Manhattan)
Eataly. Noun: The celebration of Italian cuisine. Located next to Madison Square Park (close to MSG), Eataly is an Italian market filled with every type of Italian food imaginable. From cheese, vegetable, and coffee stations, to 6 in-house restaurants, you simply can’t go wrong here.
Insider advice: Eat at the “La Pasta” restaurant before hitting the “nutella bar” for dessert.
Additional options: Mercato, Tavola
Burgers: Shake Shack (Madison Sq. Park, Manhattan)
The original Shake Shack is quite literally a shack in the middle of Madison Square Park. Here you will find some of NYC’s best burgers and shakes, which contend pound-for-pound with the likes of regional powers In-N-Out and Whataburger.
Additional options: JG Melon, Corner Bistro
Vegetarian: You’re from the Midwest. Don’t waste your money.
Sushi : Sushi Seki (365 W 46th St., Manhattan)
The NYC sushi scene is one of the best outside of Japan. Sushi Seki is one of the best in midtown. There are a plethora of fine options, but you can’t go wrong with Seki.
Insider advice: Order the Omakase and let the chef serve you whatever he wants.
Additional options: Sushi Yasuda, Hatsuhana
Bagels: Anywhere, but Best Bagel & Coffee (225 W 35th St., Manhattan) is right next to MSG. Special shoutout to H&H Bagels (1551 2nd Ave., Manhattan) on the Upper East Side if you’re willing to make the trek.
Jewish Deli: Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E Houston St., Manhattan)
The Jewish Delicatessen is a staple of New York culture. No one does deli as good as Katz’s. Since 1888, crowds have gathered on the corner of Houston and Ludlow to get their hands on the greatest pastrami sandwiches in the world. You may think $22 is far too much for a single sandwich. However at Katz’s, one sandwich can easily feed 2-3 people.
Insider advice: Upon entering the deli, each person in your party will receive a ticket. Do not lose it! When you walk up to each station to get served, you will need to present your ticket. On the way out, the cashier will take your ticket as you pay.
Additional options: 2nd Avenue Deli
Pizza: Ok. Here we go.
For a quick, classic NY slice that’s right next to MSG, go to NY Pizza Suprema (413 8th Ave., Manhattan). You can also get a killer NY slice like the locals do at the ever-popular Joe’s Pizza (7 Carmine St., Manhattan) and Price Street Pizza (27 Prince St., Manhattan). If you want a traditional coal oven style NY pie, some of your best options are John’s of Bleecker Street (278 Bleecker St, Manhattan), Lombardi’s (32 Spring St, Manhattan), or Totonno’s (1524 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn). Finally, if you want some neapolitan style pizza, Don Antonio (309 West 50th St. Manhattan), and Keste (271 Bleecker St., Manhattan) are amazing options.
Insider advice: When you eat pizza in New York, you should fold the crust from the bottom-center of each slice. This is the best way to experience true pizza. If you are confused about the three primary pizza variations in NYC, look them up before you eat!
Desserts: Wafels & Dinges (Herald Square, 102 W 35th St., Manhattan)
If you’re craving something sweet, head on over to Wafels & Dinges, which is about a five minute walk from Madison Square Garden. These Belgian waffles have been featured on Food Network and took down Bobby Flay on Throwdown.
Insider advice: A “Throwdown Wafel” is a staple here, but really any waffle with speculoos (think gingerbread) will be a winner.
Additional options: Serendipity 3, Levain Bakery
What to do
Cool. You ate some good grub. Now what? Nowhere in the world has more to offer than New York City. You can do literally anything that comes to mind (this might require a quick 30 car ride). I’m not joking. Of course you will be spending a lot of your time watching some gritty, hardworking Midwestern basketball at MSG. That being said, here are a couple tourist destinations that you should cross off your list:
World Trade Center: A truly moving testament to the strength, fortitude, and resilience of mankind and the New York spirit. At the WTC, you can see the 9/11 Memorial, climb 1776 feet to the observation deck of the Freedom Tower, and visit the high-tech Oculus shopping center.
Staten Island Ferry: Taking the ferry is the most iconic (and least expensive) way to view the Statue of Liberty and the New York harbor. On this quick trip, you don’t even need to see Staten Island (and trust me, you don’t want to). Just hop off and on the ferry again on the way back to Manhattan.
Tenement Museum: Located inside a 1863 tenement building, the Tenement Museum is a living history lesson. In addition it its historic and convenient location in the Lower East Side (close to many good restaurants), this museum offers a unique perspective of immigration history in New York.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met has one of the most legendary art collections in the world. Enough said.
Insider advice: Don’t buy a hotdog from one of the vendors outside the museum steps. They are overpriced and usually pretty bad. However, if you want to test your negotiating skills and bargain for a lower price, by all means go for it! A pretzel isn’t a bad option either.
Central Park: Walking through the iconic, beautiful oasis inside the concrete jungle never gets old.
Broadway Play: Fact: you won’t get into Hamilton. Fiction: Hamilton is the only play worth seeing. It’s so worth it to experience theater at its absolute finest.
Insider advice: Again, don’t count on seeing Hamilton. Try something new!
How to get around
In order to eat, watch basketball, or do anything for that matter, you’ll need to know how to navigate the streets of the big city like a true New Yorker. First off, accept this truth: you’re not in Kansas anymore. Throw out most of that proper Midwestern etiquette you learned as a kid. Walk fast, be brash. If you don’t keep up, you’re gonna fall behind. Push and shove your way to the front of a crowd like a good ol’ B1G power rushing attack. Unlike many other cities, jaywalking in NYC is encouraged. In fact, you should treat every street like you own it. To hell with drivers! That being said, please don’t make the terrible mistake of stopping in the middle of a sidewalk to talk, look at a map, or take pictures. Nothing else will draw the collective ire of busy locals/make you look like a moron tourist than this. The streets of NYC are pretty easy to navigate (to get from 14th street to 34th street, you walk exactly 20 streets north), but can get complicated in lower Manhattan. When you come across Houston street, be advised that it’s pronounced HOUSE-ton. Youse are in New York City. Y’all ain’t in Texas.
If you want to get around in the quickest and most efficient manner, use the Subway. Buying a metrocard (which you need to enter the subway and/or bus) is easy. Using it can be difficult. For your sense of self-worth, dignity, and the sake of the countless people in line behind you, MAKE SURE YOU ARE INSERTING THE METROCARD THE CORRECT WAY. This is perhaps the true test of being a New Yorker. Make sure to study the subway map ahead of time, so you know where you’re going and can be decisive when transferring trains. While walking through crowded platforms or sidewalks alike, many people will try to talk to you. Some might be crazy, some might want to swindle you, some might even be honest people who want to know how to get to the B train. Regardless, its OK to ignore people or walk right by them. You paid all this money to enjoy a fun trip. You deserve to do things on your terms. Also, if you have the slightest suspicious that someone is trying to swindle you, they are. Leave them be and walk away.
And finally, basketball: How has the season gone so far? (As of 2/18/18)
Much like a rickety, wild subway car, the Big Ten basketball season has been a whirlwind ride. Here’s how 2017/2018 went for some of the most notable teams:
Michigan State Spartans Record: 26-6 (14-2)
The Michigan State Spartans have had an up and down year. Sparty started off with a high-profile loss to Duke, before proceeding to dominate its opponents (both in and out of conference play) during the heart of the winter. After painful losses to Ohio State and Michigan in early January, the Spartans refocused their efforts and have returned to the top of the college basketball world, sitting at #2 in the AP poll.
Purdue Boilermakers Record: 23-5 (12-3)
Throughout the 2017/2018 campaign, Mackey Arena has been buzzin’. Purdue started off winning almost everything (minus a two game skid near Thanksgiving) and has been the Big Ten team to beat for the much of the season. Until very recently (three consecutive losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin,) Purdue seemed like a shoe-in to become a top seed come March.
Ohio State Buckeyes Record: 22-7 (13-3)
In just his first year as head coach in Columbus, Chris Holtmann has turned the Ohio State basketball program into a title contender. Against all odds, OSU has dominated the Big Ten, while their only loses have been against quality opponents (except for Penn State- twice) such as Gonzaga, Butler, UNC, and Michigan. The #8 team in the nation comes into MSG ready to make a big statement.
Michigan Wolverines Record: 22-7 (11-5)
The Wolverines have been as inconsistent as weekend 5 train service in New York. Despite the off-and-on struggles of many key players, Michigan has put together some impressive performances and seems to play up (and unfortunately, down) to its opponents. Close losses to Purdue and victories against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State are among the team’s better showings. However, Michigan has suffered embarrassing defeats to Northwestern and Nebraska, often keeping games closer than they should be. The Maize and Blue have yet to put it all together for an extended period of time.
Best of the Rest
After starting the season slow, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been as steady as they come in B1G play. The Huskers have lost only four times against conference opponents and are getting hot at the right time (current winning streak of 6). The Penn State Nittany Lions have been shaky in the B1G, but have come up big twice against the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2018. They are still looking for another signature win to put them over the top and into serious NCAA contention. Despite keeping many important players from a landmark 2016/2017 season, the Northwestern Wildcats have regressed in the current campaign (just 6-8 in conference play). It will take a far bigger miracle than a buzzer-beater against Michigan for Chris Collins’ team to be dancing in march. The Wisconsin Badgers have now lost almost all of their core from their mid 2010’s glory days. They took an understandable step back in 2017/2018 and have struggled mightily in the B1G compared to their strong performance in the last decade. No Crean, no more problems? Things didn’t work out as well as the Indiana Hoosiers would’ve liked. Archie Miller’s squad has failed to make an impact as a true contender in the Big Ten.
What to watch for in the B1G Tourney
Start spreading the news. The 2018 Big Ten Tournament will have it all: drama, intrigue, and (hopefully) a cinderella.
Can Purdue gain their lost momentum heading into March?
The Boilermakers need to redeem themselves from a brutal February if they want to hang another banner in Mackey Arena. The B1G Tournament offers them a great opportunity to get back on the right track in time for the big dance.
Will Michigan State continue their hot streak despite turmoil within the university's administration?
In late January, the sexual abuse case involving Larry Nassar sent ripples throughout the nation. In the following weeks, chaos overcame East Lansing, as key school administrators have been pushed out of power. Legendary coach Tom Izzo has also been implicated. As the Spartans travel from Michigan and into the national stage at MSG, it will be interesting to see how big a role the ongoing investigation plays.
What type of case will Nebraska and Penn State make for the selection committee?
Both Nebraska and Penn State are squarely on the NCAA bubble going into the B1G Tournament. Each team will need an extended run to prove their worth in the eyes of the selection committee, and will likely come to MSG on a mission. Can they get it done?
Can any low-seeded team save their dream to go dancing in March?
While it may be highly unlikely that any team below Penn State in the B1G standings will have a shot at the NCAA Tournament, you just never know. March (February in this case) is where cinderella stories are born.
Will Michigan reconjure its B1G Tourney magic?
Less than a year after making a magical run to the B1G Tourney crown, the Wolverines appear to have solidified their spot to play for a national championship in March. Do John Beilein and company have it in their bones to finally put it all together and win back-to-back B1G Tournament championships?
Which players will make the biggest impact?
Carsen Edwards: Purdue (G-So.) 17.1 / 3.8 / 2.9
This spark plug for Purdue has the it-factor and all the intangibles that can spur a deep B1G Tournament run.
Miles Bridges: Michigan State (G-So.) 17 / 6.9 / 2.8
A dynamic and talented all-around athlete, Bridges will be a sure-fire first round NBA pick. If he’s on, watch out for Sparty.
Moe Wagner: Michigan (C-Jr.) 14.6 / 7.3 / 0.7
Perhaps no player in the B1G can improve his team’s chances more than Moe Wagner. When he’s hot and making his outside shots, the Wolverines are nearly impossible to defend.
Keita Bates-Diop: Ohio State (F-Jr.) 19.6 / 8.8 / 1.6
KBD should win B1G player of the year. He’s that good. The engine behind Ohio State’s success has the ability to drive his team to glory.
James Palmer: Nebraska (G-Jr.) 17.9 / 4.5 / 2.9
The Husker’s biggest weapon has shot the lights out as of late. Can he do enough to get Nebraska rolling and into NCAA position?
For more B1G basketball news, stay with WCBN Sports! Team previews, game analysis, and in-depth coverage are on the way, as WCBN will be reporting live from the B1G Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Stay tuned!
That’s all folks!
If you heed my advice, not only will you have a fantastic trip to NYC, not only will you be an informed B1G fan, not only will you be the envy of New Yorkers and Midwesterners alike, but both my Jewish Bubby and my theoretical Italian Nonna will come to your house, give you a kiss on the cheek, scold you for not eating enough, and make you a home-cooked meal. Doesn’t get any better than that. Good luck, safe travels, and enjoy the basketball! Thank you so much for reading and supporting WCBN Sports.