Would Iowa, Big Ten basketball scheduling benefit from splitting into divisions?
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Wouldn’t it make sense with this to break them up by division? Play one team every year from other division twice and your division twice.
— Chris (@da_squatch0418) October 19, 2017
Answer: Basketball scheduling has evolved quite a bit over the last decade. When the Big Ten employed an 18-game schedule with 11 teams, schools played a rotation of eight teams twice and two teams once. Then when Nebraska was added, each squad played seven teams twice and four teams once. When Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big Ten, it became five teams twice and eight teams once.
That will change beginning in 2018-19 when the schedule expands to 20 games. Teams will play seven opponents twice and six once. Plus, the league’s three in-state rivalries — Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State and Illinois-Northwestern — all will play twice annually over a six-year period. For other schools, teams will play regional opponents 10 times over six years and other league squads nine times over six years.
That’s important for schools such as Iowa and Ohio State. In the Big Ten, who are their greatest rivals? For Ohio State it’s probably Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana. For Iowa, it’s mostly Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. But no opponent really sticks out as mandatory for either school. So rather than be confined to one permanent rival, it’s better to rotate through as many regional teams as possible. Plus it helps Nebraska establish regular ties with Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As for basketball divisions, it’s not as clear-cut in basketball as in football. Centrally located teams like Indiana, Purdue and Illinois are more basketball-centric and have major rivalries in both directions. The Fighting Illini are as much rivals with Indiana and Ohio State as they are with Northwestern and Iowa. Same for Purdue. Even for Iowa, you’d hate to sever the chance to play Indiana, Michigan State or Ohio State twice annually. In fact, the two most intense recent road atmospheres I’ve seen recently involved top-10 Iowa playing at ranked Indiana and Maryland in early 2016.
I think this is the best scheduling model going forward, and Commissioner Jim Delany looks like King Solomon with this switch. It increases the volume of better basketball games and helps league teams play one another more often without shoehorning teams into unwanted permanent rivalries.
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