NEW YORK — After consulting with the conference's coaches on how to improve schedule quality, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the move from 18 to 20 conference games in the 2018-19 season will help the conference from an RPI standpoint.
That was a driving point behind the news, announced Thursday morning as Big Ten media day was getting underway at Madison Square Garden.
“We looked at the place of basketball not only in the Big Ten but nationally and came to a conclusion … that we needed to control the number of quality games,” Delany said. “We could add quality games in basketball. We’re also conscious of the fact that college football has grown tremendously.
“Part of that has been increasing the number of quality games … and some control over playing games against teams with fewer scholarships and resources.”
Under the new alignment, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home and three away) during the regular season. In-state rivalries between Michigan and Michigan State, Purdue and Indiana and Northwestern and Illinois are protected and will take place twice annually.
Other teams will have a regional component to their schedule, adding a rival based on proximity so that during a six-year cycle they will play 10 such games.
The Big Ten will play a couple of conference games in December, Delany confirmed, to help spread out the schedule. The switch will happen one year before the ACC will also expand to 20 conference games.
Most conference coaches were in favor of the move and the potential boost to NCAA Tournament resumes. But after announcing a home-and-home series with Cincinnati this month, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann pointed out that taking away two nonconference games will limit the ability to schedule aggressively.
“You can’t play 30 high-major games,” Holtmann said. “That’s not fair to your team. The biggest thing is, can we have a couple games in the nonconference that people really find attractive in those November and December months, and can at least one of them, maybe two of them, be at home?”
The women’s Big Ten season will also increase by two games, from 16 to 18, next season.
Having at least one new coach in the Big Ten hasn’t been a rarity in recent history. The conference has seen at least one coaching change in five of the last seven years, and this year three teams brought new faces to Madison Square Garden: Indiana (Archie Miller), Illinois (Brad Underwood) and Ohio State.
At the other end of the spectrum, Michigan’s John Beilein made his 10th appearance. And as he surveyed the room, Beilein saw a family tree.
“Tom Izzo now, he’s like the great-grandfather of the league,” he said. “Then Matt Painter’s the grandfather and I’m next. That’s hard to believe.”
Izzo became coach at Michigan State in 1995. Painter followed suit at Purdue in 2005, and Beilein took over the Wolverines in 2008. It’s the most turnover in a single year since Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern hired new coaches for 2013.
“When you’re just hired to be fired it’s tough, but it’s the profession I chose so I’ll live with it,” Izzo said.
The Big Ten did not release preseason conference rankings this year, just an all-league team that included 10 players. Michigan State’s Miles Bridges was voted player of the year and a unanimous pick for first-team all-Big Ten alongside Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh.
Also on the team: Justin Jackson (Maryland), Moritz Wagner (Michigan), Nick Ward (Michigan State), Amir Coffey and Nate Mason (Minnesota), Scottie Lindsey (Northwestern) and Vincent Edwards (Purdue).