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updated: 1/31/2014 9:29 PM

DePaul to host Big East tournament in March

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  • Former Hersey High School standout Megan Rogowski (21) and her DePaul teammates will welcome teams from the new Big East to Chicago in March for the annual conference tournament.

      Former Hersey High School standout Megan Rogowski (21) and her DePaul teammates will welcome teams from the new Big East to Chicago in March for the annual conference tournament.
    Associated Press

 
 

Last year, it was the Big Ten.

Now, women's college basketball fans in Chicago will get a taste of the Big East.

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Conference tournament time is quickly approaching and the Chicago area will once again roll out the welcome mat.

As the Big Ten rotates its tournament from the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Big East will be setting up shop at Allstate Arena over the second weekend in March.

It will be the first time since 2003 that the Big East women's tournament will be held somewhere outside the state of Connecticut, where UConn fans provided an instant (and extra-large) fan base while watching their Huskies win the last six tournament championships.

Now, with Connecticut out of the Big East, the league is ready for a change and hoping to tap into the loyal and growing fan base at DePaul -- the official host of the 2014 tournament.

"New year, new place, new champion. We're really excited about that, and the newness of what we're doing this year," said new Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, who served as the first president of the WNBA. "Because of the success of the DePaul women's program, we think this is a great market for us. DePaul draws well and has a great fan base. They were eager to have it and I think the rest of our schools were happy with that.

"Chicago is also a really good location, a sensible location, for us. We now have five schools (DePaul, Marquette, Butler, Creighton, Xavier) in the Midwest. There's a balance now and everyone can get into Chicago easily. It makes sense logistically for us to be here."

The first round of the tournament on March 8 will be held on DePaul's Lincoln Park campus at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

Allstate Arena will host the rest of the games over the next three days, including the championship March 11.

The Big East will be working with the Chicago Sky to promote the event, which will feature two teams (St. John's and DePaul) currently on the brink of breaking into the national polls and a handful of former high school stars from the Chicago area -- including DePaul's Megan Rogowski (Hersey), Megan Podkowa (Trinity) and Chanise Jenkins (Whitney Young).

"We want to really market this to Chicago," Ackerman said. "We're hoping that (Chicago Sky forward and 2013 WNBA rookie of the year) Elena Delle Donne will be able to help us out. We're also going to put some advertising into this.

"We think we have some really good teams and can have a very nice tournament."

Tickets to the Big East women's tournament are now on sale. All-session passes are $55 and include admission to nine games and lower-level seating. Call (773) 325-SLAM for more information.

Coming up:

In an upcoming Women's Watch, I'll have more with Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, who left her then-dream job as WNBA president so that she could be around more for her two daughters, the youngest of whom just went off to college this year.

Tough break:

No one will be shedding any tears for top-ranked Connecticut (22-0).

Then again, no one wants to see promising players injured either.

Former Chicago-area star Morgan Tuck, who won three IHSA state championships at Bolingbrook, is a sophomore forward for the Huskies, and was an important player coming off the bench.

On Thursday, Tuck underwent microfracture surgery on her right knee. She will miss the rest of the season, which leaves Connecticut with just eight active scholarship players.

Keep an eye on Northwestern:

If the Wildcats had a better record than 4-4 in the Big Ten, they'd probably be getting votes in the national polls.

Northwestern had some impressive wins in January, defeating then-No. 21 Purdue, then-No. 21 Nebraska and an Indiana team that started the season 14-0.

On Sunday, the Wildcats host No. 12 Penn State (1 p.m.). A win might tip the scales for Northwestern with the voters.

Talented freshman Nia Coffey leads Northwestern in scoring at 21 points per game. She's been named Big Ten freshman of the week three times this season, including this week.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

•Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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