New York — The Big Ten made it official on Thursday, announcing it would move to a 20-game conference schedule in men’s basketball beginning with the 2018-19 season.
It’s something most coaches have been in favor of, and for Michigan and Michigan State, it means no more seasons when the rivals meet just once. That’s the case this season as the Spartans and Wolverines face each other Jan. 13 in East Lansing, but that ends starting next season.
Michigan and Michigan State, along with Purdue-Indiana and Illinois-Northwestern, will play twice in every season. That’s something both Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Michigan’s John Beilein wanted.
“There was no doubt, as Tom and I talked about this, that we should be playing twice every year,” Beilein said. “There was never a doubt in any way, shape or form. It’s what should be happening. It’s really smart scheduling for us. In basketball, it just makes so much sense, both interest-wise, financially, the whole deal is a great concept that we both embraced.”
Under the Big Ten’s new men’s scheduling format, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home, three away) in a given season. The new schedule also will 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.
“We make a big deal of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry but every rivalry in sports is important,” Izzo said. “It’s a rivalry usually because there is some proximity, that’s one reason. Indiana-Purdue, USC-UCLA, all the different rivalries — North Carolina-Duke. Second is both teams have got to be good. If both teams are good the rivalry has more meaning. It’s no fun to go to the water cooler when you win one out of every 10 games. It’s fun if every other year your team is winning. Not as much fun for the coaches, but a lot of fun for the people.
“So, I think preserving rivalries that people have grown up on in this changing world was a very good move by the Big Ten. I think it benefits a lot of us, and hopefully it catches fire around the country if it hasn’t.”
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.