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What if we played the Big Ten’s bowl games as basketball games?

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We talk Northwestern wanting Kentucky, rehash Purdue-Arizona, delve into HOOPS AT THE TROP and the unwritten rules of Iowa-BC, and give “flipping the field” a whole new meaning for Penn State-Washington.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Arizona vs Purdue
Now imagine that’s Elijah Sindelar throwing a hook shot TD to Anthony Mahoungou. RIGHT?!
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When the bowl game pairings were announced yesterday, I’m sure many of you got caught up in the same controversy I did:

By how much would Northwestern win the Music City Bowl if the basketball teams played instead?

OK, once you’ve finished laughing, entertain my flight of fancy: What if the respective schools’ basketball teams played a “bowl game” in the same town as part of the larger bowl game festivities?

We’ve had some good matchups over the years—Duke-Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl, for example. But would you take this year’s basketball matchups over the football matchups? Let’s look at the tape:

Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Boston College Eagles

KP: Iowa 74, BC 97
Sagarin: Iowa 89, BC 99
RPI: Iowa 188, BC 104

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? I’d give it to Iowa by the very slimmest of margins, because a team that loses to Nebraska is likely not very good. Then again, a team that loses to South Dakota State and Louisiana is demonstrably not very good. So maybe just choose the home team.

Where would they play?: The Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden seem like the easy options. That’s exciting enough.

Verdict: I would rather watch the MANBALL on the baseball field, as Kirk Ferentz and Steve Addazio likely both have unwritten rules like plunking the opposing punter if he hotdogs after pinning the opponent inside the 20. (Luckily for Colten Rastetter, that’s not an issue.)

Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue Boilermakers vs. Arizona Wildcats

KP: Purdue 10, Arizona 19
Sagarin: Purdue 8, Arizona 19
RPI: Purdue 46, AZ 181

Have they played?: Yes! Purdue won, 89-64, over then-#2 Arizona in the toilet bowl of the Battle 4 Atlantis. It was very silly.

Where would they play?: I guess Santa Clara University (the Broncos!) has the 4,500-seat Leavey Center, but take the train a couple stops down to San Jose (if you know the way) and play this in the home of the San Jose Sharks, the SAP Center. That’d be big-ticket enough.

Verdict: Give me the shootyhoops, even if it’s a rematch. RichRod at Arizona just doesn’t do it for me.

Holiday Bowl: Michigan State Spartans vs. Washington State Cougars

KP: MSU 3, Wazzu 174
Sagarin: MSU 3, Wazzu 123
RPI: MSU 13, Wazzu 37

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? Sparty. And it wouldn’t be terribly close.

Where would they play?: Valley View Casino Center, apparently, which is where the San Diego Clippers played and the San Diego Aztecs played until 1997. That’d be fine, I guess.

Verdict: Oh, it’s the clash of styles. No doubt: Football.

Music City Bowl: Northwestern Wildcats vs. Kentucky Wildcats

KP: NU 56, UK 13
Sagarin: NU 68, UK 17
RPI: NU 118, UK 9

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? Kentucky. And it wouldn’t be terribly close.

Where would they play?: Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL’s Predators, which is even closer to the Broadway scene than Nissan Stadium is. And that’s a good thing, because I’d need to be good and liquored up to watch the ‘Cats take a pounding from the other, more athletic, more talented, far superior ‘Cats.

Verdict: I’d still want to watch the basketball more. It’s Northwestern playing Kentucky at a supposedly-neutral site. Would the shit-kicking suck? Probably, but that’s some spoiled milk you just have to take a whiff of.

Outback Bowl: Michigan Wolverines vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

KP: Michigan 42, USCe 50
Sagarin: Michigan 37, USCe 63
RPI: Michigan 80, USCe 171

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? This would be a blast to watch. Frank Martin’s Gamecocks play hard-nosed, aggressive, shut-down defense just half a year removed from their Final Four run. I would enjoy seeing that challenge to Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews, but I would give the odds to the Wolverines, as South Carolina’s got a couple gross losses to Illinois State and Temple on their resume.

Where would they play?: Sure, there’s the Tampa Bay Times-Forum, home of the Lightning, but I want this one at the Trop. Has the Trop ever hosted a Final Four or something? Can a ball get lost in the ceiling there? That would be enjoyable.

Verdict: Ugh. It’s mediocre vs. mediocre either way. I’d probably take basketball, but only because I’ve convinced myself that in this totally hypothetical scenario, we’re playing this game at the Trop.

Cotton Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes vs USC Trojans

KP: OSU 61, USC 27
Sagarin: OSU 50, USC 42
RPI: OSU 133, USC 42

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? I’d give the nod to USC, though after the Buckeyes’ boatracing of wisconsin on the badgers’ previously-impenetrable home floor, it’s tougher. Plus, the Trojans are coming off back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and at SMU. It would sure be entertaining, though.

Where would they play?: The Mavericks’ American Airlines Arena. Sure. Whatever.

Verdict: Football here, easy. You know that.

Orange Bowl: wisconsin badgers vs. Miami-FL Hurricanes

KP: uw 47, Miami 15
Sagarin: uw 55, Miami 15
RPI: uw 81, Miami 58

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? Look at how the athleticism of Miami went to Williams Arena and beat the Gophers. Look at how the badgers were stifled by the athleticism and dribble-penetration of Ohio State. This one could get even more out of hand.

Where would they play?: Wherever the Heat play. Are they still a team, or did they fold after Lebron went back to Cleveland.

Verdict: Football, probably, though I’m tempted to say basketball because getting to see uw get stomped in basketball would be really, really enjoyable.

Fiesta Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Washington Huskies

KP: PSU 33, UW 137
Sagarin: PSU 51, UW 111
RPI: PSU 127, UW 95

Have they played?: No.

Who would win? Washington runs, too, but they play a fraction of the defense that Penn State does. Nittany Lions win this one easy.

Where would they play?: Downtown Phoenix has Talking Stick Resort Arena, but I’m digging the idea of a football-basketball double-header, where the fans head across the street to University of Phoenix Stadium after a game at Gila River Arena home of the Phoenix Arizona probably Seattle, soon Coyotes.

Actually, don’t even make them walk across the street. After the game is over, slap down a basketball court, close the roof on the arena, and let the football players and marching bands form student sections on either side of the court. That would be bitchin. You’d watch that. I’d watch that. Make this happen, Fiesta Bowl.

Verdict: Football again.


So would the Big Ten do better in football season or basketball season? Given the almost-guaranteed boatracings of Northwestern and wisconsin in basketball, I’d take the competitiveness of the football slate, top-to-bottom, over the hypothetical lineup.

In terms of watchable games, I have football’s bowl games nosing out my hypothetical basketball bowl games, 5-3, but that’s mostly because I have a number of prop bets on Iowa-Boston College (O/U 14.5 punts is a big one) and damnit, I need to see how many I hit.