In case you missed it, yesterday the Big Ten Network announced their 2015-16 TV schedule for conference play. As Thomas broke it down on yesterday's post, there were a handful of teams in the conference set to be featured on the Big Ten Network more than others. The reason for that makes sense, to some extent, as the teams featured less on BTN will be seen more often nationally on the ESPN body of networks and CBS on the weekends, explaining why teams like Maryland, Indiana and Michigan State are featured the least on the network in 2016.
With that being said, if you had to guess which team was the most featured on the network, who would you pick? The logical (and safe) bet would be one of the bottom dwelling teams, maybe Rutgers or Penn State. I could even see a case for Northwestern or Nebraska as well, especially since both teams aren't exactly major rating draws outside of their respected fan bases. That being said, the team featured most on BTN this winter? Minnesota. And it's not even close.
The likes of Northwestern and Rutgers, tied for the second most conference games on the network, are set to be featured 12 times this season during conference play. As for the Gophers? 16 times. Not a typo, but 16 of their 18 games during Big Ten play will be featured on the network:
|12/30||at Ohio State|
|01/05||at Penn State|
Do you want to know what makes that list look even worse? The two games not currently set to air on BTN this winter. The first of two games not set to air on the network is Minnesota's home game against Michigan State on January 2nd. That date is of significance because it's one of those lengthy quintuple headers that the Big Ten Network occasionally will do on a Saturday, set to feature five Big Ten games from noon to ten, but not including the Gophers.
As for the other game, that happens to be their trip to Champaign to take on Illinois at the end of February, which is currently set to air on either ESPN/ESPN2, CBS or BTN per their official site. The fun thing about that? Oh, the fact that the Big Ten Network has a slot for the 28th with the teams to be determined, meaning that Minnesota could easily end up on the network for the 17th time when everything is said and done. Even more so as unless something drastic happens, that's not a CBS matchup and both teams could be on the wrong side of the bubble with a week remaining, meaning they could be relegated to the Big Ten Network. Even more so when the other games set for the 28th include Wisconsin-Michigan and Michigan State-Penn State, meaning BTN is a realistic possibility.
If we're being honest, I've never had much of an issue with the network, though I've seen far to many people vocally upset/frustrated with their coverage throughout the season. While some of the BTN Plus feeds have been rough at times, the network should provide adequate coverage for Minnesota basketball. The problem is the networks reach is limited to the markets the Big Ten is located in, meaning a good majority of the Gophers games won't be nationally aired as areas not near Big Ten universities are considerably less likely to get the network. That of course could lead to a lack of exposure for the program and that's never a great thing for recruiting purposes.
The bigger issue, in my opinion, is it seems like a slight at Minnesota, even if it's entirely unintentional. The Gophers haven't been to the tournament in the two seasons Richard Pitino has been here, but they've still been pretty good each season and have plenty of youth and potential to compete in the conference. The fact that nationwide audiences are going to be subjected to teams like Rutgers and Penn State considerably more often than Minnesota is not only a bummer for Minnesota fans, but pushes some of the conference's worst teams in the national spotlight (usually to get beat down by one of the top B1G programs) instead of showcasing a much more enjoyable Minnesota program.
Last season the Gophers played in 13 regular season conference games decided by single digits. It's a shame that they'll be playing to smaller audiences in 2016. At least that means we're likely going to see some entertaining games on BTN this winter.