A pair of Big Ten basketball leaders recently discussed the possibility of increasing the number of regular-season conference games. In an article written by ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman on Monday, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo were quoted regarding the adoption of a 20-game conference school, compared to the 18-game slate that the Big Ten currently plays.
Delany told ESPN that there have been ongoing discussions regarding the change. The conference coaches have yet to vote on the proposed schedule, but the highest-profile head coach in the Big Ten appears to think it’s inevitable.
“I personally see us going to a 20-game schedule,” Izzo told ESPN on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any question it’s going to happen — and I’m not overly against it.”
There are a few hurdles to jump in order to increase the conference schedule. Izzo pointed out that he would want every major conference to adopt a 20-game schedule in order to balance things out across the NCAA.
If the Big Ten is playing each other in mid-December while the other major conferences are scheduling cupcakes, the overall records could become uneven. As Goodman noted, the ACC is already moving to a 20-game schedule prior to the 2019-20 season.
"If everyone doesn't go to 20 games in the power five, someone will have a major advantage in terms of wins and losses," Izzo said. "When you are only talking about a difference of one game in wins, it's not a big deal. But when you start talking two or three wins, a lot of time they will take the team with the better record."
While that could be a hurdle when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding, more conference games would mean more money. A matchup between Indiana and Wisconsin or Michigan and Minnesota in December will be a much hotter ticket than the typical matchups with Florida A&M, South Dakota State or Georgia Southern.
In-state rivalry games are also regularly played in early-to-mid December. These games are important within state boundaries and there’s no reason adopting a couple of Big Ten games in December would need to cut into these rivalries.
Adding two games to the schedule would be nice, as the Big Ten is already stretched thin since the conference moved to 14 teams with the additions Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. Conference teams are currently only playing five teams twice during the regular season.
The 18-team schedule was adopted during a different time in the Big Ten. The conference still consisted of 11 teams when the Big Ten increased the league schedule from 16 games to 18 games prior to the 2007-08 season.