CHICAGO – It’s been four years since the conference has held its popular men’s basketball championship tourney in their home city, but the wait is over.

Chicago is once again the site for the Big Ten Tournament as the United Center will play host to the conference’s 14 teams for five days of basketball to determine their official representative for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Here are a few things to know about this year’s edition of the tournament.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Welcome Back

As mentioned before, this is the tournament’s first time back in Chicago since 2019 and will mark the 11th time it has been staged at the United Center.

It served as the host for the first four years of the tournament from 1998 through 2001 and has since hosted in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2019, and this year.

Michigan State has won the most Big Ten Tournaments in Chicago, capturing the title in 1999, 2000, and 2019.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Five Days of Action

For the third time as a host, the Big Ten Tournament will be played out over five days, with the bottom four seeds playing on Wednesday.

Play kicks off at 5:30 p.m. that day as 12th-seeded Wisconsin faces 13th-seed Ohio State. The match-up between 10th-seed Nebraska and 14th-seed Minnesota will go 25 minutes after Game 1.

Here’s how the schedule plays out the rest of the way

Thursday, March 9

  • 11 a.m. – #8 Michigan vs #9 Rutgers
  • 25 Minutes After – #5 Iowa vs winner of Ohio State-Wisconsin Wednesday game
  • 5:30 p.m. – #7 Illinois vs #10 Penn State
  • 25 Minutes After – #6 Maryland vs winner of Minnesota-Nebraska Wednesday game

Friday, March 10

  • 11 a.m. – #1 Purdue vs winner of Michigan-Rutgers Thursday game
  • 25 Minutes After – #4 Michigan State vs winner of Iowa vs OSU/Wisconsin Thursday
  • 5:20 p.m. – #2 Northwestern vs winner of Illinois-Penn State Thursday game
  • 25 Minutes After – #3 Indiana vs winner of Maryland vs Minnesota/Nebraska

Saturday, March 11

  • 12 p.m. – Big Ten semifinal Game 1 – Winner of 1st two games on Friday
  • 25 Minutes After – Big Ten semifinal Game 2 -Winner of final two games on Friday

Sunday, March 12

  • 2:30 p.m. – Big Ten Tournament Championship Game
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

A wide-open tournament

Once again, it’s been a competitive Big Ten season with a number of teams bunched up in the middle with Purdue, the pre-tournament favorite, standing alone at the top for most of the season.

The second seed through the eighth seed in the tournament was separated by just a single game with all but four teams finishing at or over .500 in the league.

Northwestern is the surprise two seed after the Wildcats’ unforeseen turnaround season in which they won a program-record 12 Big Ten games. Chris Collins’ team will be looking for their first conference tournament championship as the tune-up for their second NCAA Tournament in program history.

Despite being one game behind Northwestern in the standings, Illinois fell to the seventh seed due to the tiebreakers. The Illini have had a very up-and-down season but are still expected to make the NCAA Tournament regardless of the result in Chicago.

Illinois has won the Big Ten Tournament championship twice at the United Center (2003, 2005) while also winning it in Indianapolis in 2021.

A potential concession worker’s strike

Due to an ongoing contract negotiation between Unite HERE Local 1 and Levy Restaurants, there could be a concession workers strike during the Big Ten Tournament.

Negotiations continue between the sides but no agreement has been reached as of 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

In a news release, Levy Restaurants said that if a strike takes place that a “limited food and beverage service and will only focus on fan favorites.”