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Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery likely will face Nebraska twice a season.

Iowa’s tough choice if Big Ten opts for permanent basketball opponents

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ANSWER: There is a groundswell of support among Big Ten administrators that with the new 20-game men’s basketball league schedule, every team should have an opponent guaranteed to play twice annually.

For the upcoming season, the league designated Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State and Illinois-Northwestern as permanent opponents. Western teams Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska would meet 10 times in a six-year period. The same goes for the eastern quadrant of Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers. Everybody else plays nine times over six years.

Now there is a push for every team to declare a permanent rivalry, and for some teams it is an uncomfortable fit. Ohio State’s chief rivalries are with Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana. But those three teams all deem other rivalries as more important. Iowa’s most-played rivalry is Minnesota, yet the Gophers’ bond with Wisconsin is stronger. The Badgers and Hawkeyes have their own fierce series, but Iowa ranks second for the Badgers, too.

The Hawkeyes’ most intense historical rivalry easily is with Illinois, but the Big Ten declared the Illini’s in-state series with Northwestern as permanent. Illinois’ rivalries with a half-dozen Big Ten teams are more intense than with the Wildcats, but both reside in the same state. Iowa has fierce competitions with all of the historical Big Ten teams for 100-plus years, but there always is another team in the way.

Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, and the timing is right to make it Iowa’s permanent basketball rival for multiple reasons. There is a strong dislike for one another between the fan bases. The two share a border along the Missouri River, and the Omaha metro area spills over into both states. There is an uneven basketball history between the teams, but Iowa hasn’t participated in even a Sweet 16 in 20 years so that matters less with each passing season.

Unless the Big Ten designated Iowa-Illinois as a permanent rivalry, the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers are the next-best option.

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