Finally, the most important basketball rivalry in the Big Ten is a protected rivalry. This morning the Big Ten announced its expansion to a 20-game conference schedule during basketball season. Buried in the announcement was an even more important part:
Under the new men’s format, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home, three away) in a given season. The three in-state rivalries – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue and Michigan/Michigan State – will be played twice annually, while the new schedule will also include a regional component to increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas. Over the course of a six-year cycle (12 playing opportunities), in-state rivals will play each other 12 times, regional opponents will play 10 times, and all other teams will play nine times.
Yes, this means Purdue and Indiana will play twice each season starting in 2018-19 and going forward. I really don’t care about the rest, but Purdue and Indiana playing twice each season is a must. This coming year will mark the 7th time since the 2001-02 season that Purdue and Indiana are only scheduled to meet once in conference play (3 have been in West Lafayette, 4 in Bloomington) and that is seven times too many.
There was also a change to the women’s schedule:
The updated women’s format will feature 18 conference games that will allow teams to play five opponents twice and eight teams once (four home, four away) each season. A similar model that emphasizes in-state rivalries and competition between regional opponents will also be implemented for the new women’s schedule.
This is also a good announcement. If you’re going to have a 14-team conference then you had better have all 14 teams play each other.
At least they finally got it right for the teams with the most combined Big Ten championships (45 and counting).