Once upon a time a few years back there were only 11 Big Ten teams. Therefore the 18 conference games meant you would face eight opponents twice and two opponents once. For the most part this created a decent amount of parity when it came to conference schedule and didn't tend to favor one or two teams too heavily.
Now the conference is up to 14 teams and still plays 18 games, the end result meaning you'll end up playing only five teams twice and the remaining eight teams once. That removes the parity in conference scheduling and means some teams will be at a sizable advantage in scheduling if the dominoes fall in their favor. Take for example Purdue, who will only play Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa once. That's not too shabby of a conference haul as the team will only have to play five likely NCAA Tournament teams once, three of which are games in West Lafayette.
On the other side you have a team like Northwestern, who is trying to rebuild from the bottom up. Their five opponents they play twice? Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois...all of which are likely NCAA Tournament teams. This of course means Northwestern will face some of the lower tier Big Ten teams, like Penn State and Rutgers, only once. That of course means their schedule is going to be considerably more challenging than another team like Purdue, putting the Wildcats at a sizable disadvantage.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has a suggestion on how to remedy the issue, claiming the league should expand the conference schedule.
"I've said this before, so I'm not going to beat a drum here about scheduling, but to play the RPI teams and to play where their RPIs will be at the time, to play 20 games in our league, I think it would be great for the league if we could squeeze it in," mentioned Ryan.
The move would turn the five double play and eight single play schedule into one where teams would have seven double plays and six single plays, balancing the play a bit more. The problem is the Big Ten would then need to find a way to fit in the games, bumping up the conference schedule further into December (it usually begins on New Years Eve). With the way winter breaks tend to work, that means the Big Ten could be starting games prior to Christmas if they expanded the conference slate. It'd also make things tricky for teams as they already have the Big Ten / ACC Challenge, the upcoming event with the American Athletic Conference, occasionally marquee non-conference matchups and a number of preseason events (Crossroads Classic, Maui Invitational, etc.).
So while the increased conference schedule would help create a more balanced schedule in the league, as well as help fix the issues of poor non-conference scheduling from a RPI standpoint, it's more or less a logistical nightmare when everything is said and done. Even more so when you think of teams starting conference play several days before Christmas when trying to find ways to pack arenas as students are gone for winter break.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany hasn't ruled out the idea, but has made it apparent that it would take serious interest from the coaches as a whole and not just Ryan.
"If our coaches said to us, we'd like to have 20, we would have it...I wouldn't be opposed to 20."
Of course Delany probably realizes the idea of selling additional Big Ten conference games over powerhouse teams facing local mid-majors has the potential for more revenue and marketability, but it still seems a far way off if we end up heading in this direction.