2 new teams muddle Big Ten basketball schedule

Matt Charboneau and Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Rosemont, Ill. — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo described the Big Ten's new scheduling as "muddled."

He also said he could think of a few other words, but decided to play it safe at Big Ten media day.

But he's never been able to get behind the idea of not playing every conference team twice. And with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers — bringing the Big Ten to 14 — that is even harder to accomplish.

This season, each team will have five opponents they will play home-and-home, and they'll play the other eight once.

"Let's play 26," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "Ernie Banks said let's play two, didn't he?"

Ryan was joking about the 26, but he isn't about playing at least 20.

"Twenty would be great," he said. "There's a lot of other factors. … I think there's been some test runs at looking at things, but I would not be opposed to playing 20 at all."

The biggest issue is the possibility schedules are unbalanced. Some teams might face the top teams once while others face them twice.

It's especially crucial in a conference that is believed to be as wide open as the Big Ten could be this season.

"I think there's an eight-, nine-, 10-team race," Izzo said. "And with who you play once and where you play them, 'muddled up' is a good word. I've got a couple other words that mean the same thing. Not as many letters."

Some wonder, too, if not seeing all teams equally takes something away from the regular season and puts too much emphasis on the conference tournament.

"I don't think it devalues (the regular season), it's just different," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "It's not consistent, nor is it ever going to be again because we're not going to jump up and say we're going to play 26 league games. … I don't think it devalues it, but someone is going to have an advantage and someone is going to have a disadvantage, and there's going to be some schools that are kind of in the middle of the fray."

Adjustment time

Although expansion to 14 teams bolstered the conference's reach on the East Coast, it may not have added to the competitive balance in basketball — Maryland and Rutgers are picked to finish in the bottom half of the standings.

Rutgers, projected to finish last in an unofficial media poll, will have an adjustment trying to fit into the competitive Big Ten after going 12-21 in the Big East last year.

"We know where we are as far as the 14-team league — it's going to be a great challenge for us," Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. "We just hope that we can be competitive."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon believes his team can compete after moving from the Atlantic Coast Conference, another basketball powerhouse.

"We're going to play a little bit differently this year ourselves," he said. "When you get into leagues like this ... you're going to have all kinds of styles."

Eastern site discussed

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said conference officials are in talks to take the men's tournament to New York or New Jersey at some point.

The tournament is in Chicago this year and heads to Indianapolis in 2016 before moving to the Verizon Center in Washington in 2017.

On, Wisconsin

Before Ryan was introduced, the moderator mentioned the Badgers accolades from last season, including a Final Four berth.

"I haven't heard that many good things said about us in my previous 13 years," Ryan quipped.

Although the Badgers have been favored in the preseason many times, they are the unanimous choice to win the conference, with unanimous preseason player of the year Frank Kaminsky. They also return preseason first-teamer Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser.