ROSEMONT, Ill. — If you want the guarantee of two Michigan-Michigan State men’s basketball games, every winter, or to preserve the sanctity/insanity that is Indiana-Purdue, Jim Delany is down with that.
One catch: One of those two rivalry games might be played to tip off the season, as opposed to its usual landing spot in January and February.
“Should we go to a larger number of conference games, that probably means fewer nonconference games, so we’d have to look at the scheduling of the games and maybe the full use of the season,” Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, said during the final day of the league’s spring joint group meetings.
“Typically, we’ve used November-December for the nonconference and then January-February for the conference [portion] and I’ve wondered, in my own mind, what is the optimal way of presenting college basketball?”
“I think we’ve enhanced it with the Gavitt [Tipoff] Games [vs. the Big East] and with the ACC Challenge, but it starts a little bit differently. [Big East founder] Dave Gavitt used to say, and I think, accurately, ‘We know how to finish the season, but we don’t have a great way of starting it.’”
‘I can’t tell you how close we are, but I think it’s an active discussion, that issue, for sure.’
— Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, on a 20-game conference basketball schedule
A league opponent — especially a league rival — would raise the stakes, and fan interest, right out of the gate.
“And you look at Major League Baseball, they have a great way of starting [with Opening Day], they really celebrate,” Delany continued. “So I think work needs to be done in that area, and certainly presenting the game at a time when football season is going on and students are not on campus. But we can make improvements in that area.”
Delany also said Big Ten administrators are “actively [discussing] conference games earlier in the year in both football and in basketball. I think that’s a good thing.”
Another active discussion on the men’s basketball side, the commissioner noted, was a 20-game league schedule.
The upside: More conference games improves the odds of maintaining long-standing basketball rivalries annually — something the two Michigan schools and the two Indiana schools are both very much in favor of, as well as Illinois and Northwestern. It also ensures, theoretically, that there’s another quality, Power 5 game on a school’s postseason resume.
“That’s a discussion point,” Delany said. “I can’t tell you how close we are, but I think it’s an active discussion, that issue, for sure.”