Rosemont, Ill. — The Big Ten is moving on up.
Starting this season, the Big Ten will be the first conference to adopt at 20-game league slate that will begin in late November and early December, and will protect three rivalries, including Michigan-Michigan State.
“I don't think there's anything less interesting than a bad college basketball game in the month of November,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday at the conference's annual media day. “We're trying to improve it.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said the only drawback, in his opinion, from making the jump from an 18-game conference schedule is it gives teams less flexibility to schedule more non-conference games.
“But I think the madness behind it, it usually works out best for the student-athletes, for the media, for the fans, and for the players because you play in the best arenas, you play in the best games, you play in front of the most people,” Izzo said. “It gets you the exposure you're looking for. Sometimes for a coach, it's harder because it is just constantly grinding it. I think most coaches like it, too. I know I do. I'd rather play good people.
“What does an off-day do? Take your wife out to dinner because you're playing a dog? Once the season starts, that doesn't matter anyway, because she knows dinner is usually at the end of the year.”
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said he thinks the two-game increase will benefit every team in the Big Ten from a resume-building standpoint, and is a step toward finding a way to capture the conference’s collective fans in November and December when there’s a lull between bowl games in college football.
“For us, to be able to get quality opponents in your building, it's important to us early because our fan base loves it,” Pitino said. “More importantly, though, last year from studying what the NCAA Tournament was looking at, they're looking at how many good wins you have. They're not looking at who you lose to. That really isn't relevant anymore. I mean, certainly we don't want to lose, but if you can stack up as many quality ... wins as you can, it's good for everybody.
“I think it's great. I think a lot of the Power 5 or Power 6 conferences will go to that. Big East probably can't. For us, I think it's really smart. I think it’s a good idea.”
Michigan coach John Beilein said he was apprehensive at first when the idea was brought up during meetings. However, the more he thought about it, the more it grew on him.
“At first, I didn't think I would like the 20. But scheduling is so difficult, trying to get teams to play you home-and-home,” Beilein said. “If Jim (Delany) said we're going to go to 22 or 24, what do you think about going to 26? This is crazy now, I'd say, ‘You know what, let's do it.’ Scheduling is really, really hard. Right now, we have 25 Power 5 type of games, obviously counting the Big East being in that. That's really good.
“But that is hard to schedule home-and-home. Getting home games for your students in December is everything. If you were with our games last year, home with Indiana, away at Ohio State, that first weekend in December, packed arenas, it was great. One of the best moves we've made is play in December and expand the schedule. Who knows where it could go from here?”