In this week's mailbag, we take a look at how the future of the Big Ten conference race will be affected by unbalanced schedules, the future of Big Ten basketball, and Wisconsin's place in the national spotlight. If you'd like to submit questions for next week's mailbag, you can leave them in the comments below or tweet them to @BTPowerhouse. Just be sure to use the #BTPMailbag hashtag.
Badadadadadadadada! asks, "Where do you see Maryland and Rutgers slotting in next year?"
Excellent question. Maryland and Rutgers will join the Big Ten officially in time for our next basketball season and a lot of things will change with their arrival. Schedules, first of all, will become even more unbalanced while the current members will for the most part add a very long road trip when they face these opponents. Maryland and Rutgers were added based on their ability to help generate further television and football revenue, but they won't be absolutely terrible additions on the hardwood. Well, at least both of them won't be. Rutgers is not a very good team this year and they're going to finish in the American Athletic Conference's basement. Next year they won't be much better. Expect to see Rutgers finish in the bottom 4 of the Big Ten.
Maryland, on the other hand, is crowded into the middle of the pack in the ACC this year and should be very good next year. This year they were unlucky to lose Seth Allen, their starting point guard, for basically the entire non-conference schedule, but this team has talent. Allen, Shaquille Cleare, Evan Smotrycz, Dezmine Wells, and Jake Layman will be effective Big Ten players right away and you already know that I love Maryland's recruiting class. I expect Maryland to make a small run later in the ACC season when Seth Allen is reintegrated into their offense and I think the Terrapins will finish in the top half of the Big Ten next year at the absolute worst. I don't see Maryland winning the conference in their first year, but a top 4 finish isn't out of the question for one of our new members.
outkast762 asks, "Is there a list with the easiest/toughest conference schedules?"
But let's take a look at the unbalanced schedules and see which teams got off the hook easy. Here are the single plays this season:
Illinois: Michigan, Purdue, at Northwestern, at Minnesota
Indiana: Ohio State, Iowa, at Purdue, at Minnesota
Iowa: Purdue, Nebraska, at Penn State, at Indiana
Michigan: Northwestern, Penn State, at Ohio State, at Illinois
Michigan State: Nebraska, Minnesota, at Purdue, at Wisconsin
Minnesota: Indiana, Illinois, at Michigan State, at Nebraska
Nebraska: Wisconsin, Minnesota, at Iowa, at Michigan State
Northwestern: Illinois, Penn State, at Ohio State, at Michigan
Ohio State: Michigan, Northwestern, at Wisconsin, at Indiana
Penn State: Iowa, Wisconsin, at Michigan, at Northwestern
Purdue: Indiana, Michigan State, at Illinois, at Iowa
Wisconsin: Ohio State, Michigan State, at Penn State, at Nebraska
Of the teams contending for a league title, which I would say includes Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin, this question is easy to answer. Wisconsin has the easiest schedule among those four, avoiding trips to face Michigan State and Ohio State. Iowa, on the other hand, has to face each contending team twice. Their schedule is easily the toughest in the league, not just the toughest among contenders, considering the fact that they face all of the toughest teams twice and don't get two opportunities against Nebraska and Penn State.
Penn State looks to have the easiest conference schedule among all teams. They face Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan only once but they will also miss out on a home game against the Northwestern Wildcats, the odds-on favorite to finish dead last in the Big Ten. It doesn't look like that will be enough to help the Nittany Lions to the NIT, but if they're as competitive at home as they were against Minnesota they may have a chance.
@TonyAshauer tweeted, "Why does Wisc(Wisconsin) gets no national love"?
It's tough to explain why Wisconsin isn't as popular with pundits as some other teams in its position. If Kentucky were 16-0, or Duke, there would be articles celebrating their big win streak a few times a week. Wisconsin beat Illinois to eclipse their best start in school history and outside of game recaps, I haven't seen an article or editorial on the Badgers between ESPN, CBS Sports, and a few other major outlets. SI.com at least put their Illinois/Wisconsin recap on the front page of the college basketball section, but you're right that there isn't as much ink being spilled over the Badgers as you might expect given their lofty position in the polls.
Some will point to their slow tempo and say that their games aren't entertaining. Wisconsin does play slow. Their adjusted tempo is 310th nationally. But it's not even the slowest in the Big Ten. Michigan and Northwestern both play even slower. Ohio State and Illinois only play slightly faster. Wisconsin's speed of play can't be the only issue at play, Florida, Baylor, and Syracuse play slower and have gotten plenty of attention from the press.
Maybe it's Wisconsin's lack of star power. Syracuse is powered by super frosh Tyler Ennis. Baylor has Isaiah Austin. Sam Dekker is a better NBA prospect than either of those players, but hasn't quite captured the public's attention the way those guys have. Maybe it's the lacking tournament performances that have dogged Wisconsin throughout Bo's tenure. One thing is for sure though, Wisconsin's time is coming, at least for this year. With their favorable schedule and strong start to the season, their role in the Big Ten's title race will be getting plenty of ink as the season wears on. Even if they get second billing behind the Spartans and the Buckeyes.
That's all for this week. Remember, if you'd like to submit questions for next week's mailbag you can leave them in the comments below or tweet them to @BTPowerhouse - just be sure to use the #BTPMailbag hashtag.