The Big Ten has officially released the 2017-18 conference matchups for each team. This means we are only one step closer to next season and gives us an opportunity to evaluate who each team will be playing next year.
While the official dates and times for the conference schedule have yet to be announced, we now know the framework of each team’s conference slate. That includes Big Ten favorite Michigan State.
The Spartans will have “double plays” against Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers and Wisconsin. I’m sure you’re noticing one big missing name on that list — Michigan. That’s right the Spartans will only play Michigan once in 2017-18, and in my opinion that’s just truly wrong. The positive though for Michigan State is that game against their arch rivals will be at home in East Lansing.
The Spartans will also welcome Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue, and travel to Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State as their “single plays.” Below is a tweet from Michigan State containing a graphic that shows how the schedule plays out.
2017-18 Big Ten Opponents announced. One step closer to the start of the season pic.twitter.com/8oCOFkgVjj— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) July 31, 2017
So with the layout of the 2017-18 Michigan State schedule set, it’s time to assess. I’ll take a look at the highlights and lowlights of next year’s 2017-18 conference slate and give my early thoughts on how it could play out.
First let’s take a look at some of the positives with this schedule. With Michigan State being a traditional power in the league and entering next year with extremely high expectations, I personally would love to see some big time matchups. A few of the “double plays” will offer that.
Michigan State will get to battle Indiana, Maryland and Wisconsin each twice. All three of those programs -- in my opinion -- should contend for NCAA Tournament trips next year. All three of those programs also feature great road environments so you can expect each of these games to be difficult for the Spartans. That’s good for a team that wants to be challenged before possibly making a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Another plus from this draw is that all of the Spartans’ “single play” road opponents will present challenging matchups. Three of Michigan State’s road “single plays” are contenders for the NCAA Tournament, and it’s also never easy to win in Columbus so don’t sleep on the Buckeyes. This road schedule certainly will be difficult and test the Spartans.
Michigan State is going to be really good next year — as long as they stay healthy — so I’m looking for tougher games and this schedule does offer that. That’s a good thing to take away from it.
You have to take the good with that bad and unfortunately there is some bad with this schedule as well. Starting off with the obvious — one game against top rival Michigan.
I don’t understand how this can happen — and happen for a second time in three years. You may believe that college football rivalries are more intense than basketball, but there’s still so much fire in this rivalry and missing out on a second helping this year is certainly disappointing. Not to mention that both teams will be solid making for what could have been two really tight games. I give the Big Ten a big “L” for this scheduling blunder.
My next beef with this schedule is putting Minnesota on it only once. Now you might point out that I just said playing at Minnesota next year is a positive -- and that’s true -- but playing the Golden Gophers twice would be a lot better. Both Michigan State and Minnesota are at the top of BT Powerhouse’s early power rankings and taking away one of those possible matchups could really impact the Big Ten championship race. And you never want scheduling to possibly play a defining role in a championship race.
Officially Michigan State has the fifth easiest draw in the Big Ten for next year. That’s according to a story from BT Powerhouse that evaluated the average rating of each school’s “double play” opponents. This ranking may be skewed by Rutgers, Indiana and Illinois’ rankings from last year so I actually believe the “double play” draw is harder.
However, playing Michigan only once hurts the schedule for multiple reasons and that ultimately brings down my rating for it. I like some of the “double play” draws and there’s some tough road games as part of the “single plays” as well.
This league always presents plenty of challenges with each team and in the end it’ll be a tough schedule for the Spartans. As I said before, you want that for a team that is expected to contend for a National Championship so overall this is a decent draw that could have been a lot better with a road trip to Ann Arbor included.