ROSEMONT, ILLINOIS— A 20 game slate is set and ready to be played in the Big Ten.
For the first time in Big Ten history, conference slates will be 20 games. This is a more common theme that leagues are beginning to consider as the criteria for dancing in March continues to change.
All 14 Big Ten coaches talked about it in their press conferences and all 14 coaches are in agreement that 20 league games is the right move. Although it will be an adjustment for coaches, they see the long term success that 20 conference games can bring.
A theme in the discussions about scheduling and 20 conference games is that coaches believe quality non-conference games are becoming harder to schedule. Multiple coaches stated that not only is it difficult to ink a home and home series, but its also difficult to ink a home and home series that other schools are not going to back out of.
Another fear coaches have is scheduling a quality mid-major team at home and losing.
Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino noted, “ last year from studying what the NCAA Tournament was looking at, they’re looking at how many good wins you have. They’re not looking at who you lose to. That really isn’t relevant anymore. I mean, certainly we don’t want to lose, but if you can stack up as many quality quad one, quad two wins as you can, it’s good for everybody.”
A major factor in the 20 game slate is adding those two conference games in December. This will attract more fans and allow for teams to have fans feel the excitement of basketball in December as the regular football season is ending and football bowl season is beginning.
Tom Izzo weighed in on that, “Well, always as a coach you get mad at Jim Delany because he keeps moving this thing up, then you see what it does for our league, for TV, for exposure, and he’s brilliant.”
Izzo continued, “It’s something that I think we talked about in our meetings. Let’s face it, the only problem is you’d like to have the flexibility to be able to schedule a bunch of other games non-conference. I think that’s part of the fun.”
Izzo also noted the importance of fans and media seeing and understanding the change.
“Something that fans and media should understand, an average conference game is usually tougher than a very good non-conference game because the conference, they know each other, you’re going to play in front of a rivalry crowd, things like that.”
John Beilein has come around to the idea of 20 league games and is now in favor of it.
“First, I didn’t think I would like the 20. But scheduling is so difficult, trying to get teams to play you home and home. We’ve been able to really do a good job with that. It’s really hard.”
Beilein continued, “If Jim said we’re going to go to 22 or 24, what do you think about going to 26? This is crazy now, I’d say, You know what, let’s do it. Scheduling is really, really hard.”
Beilein enjoyed what the conference games in December last year brought to the table. He says its great to see the fanbases show up for those games.
“Getting home games for your students in December is everything. If you were with our games last year, with Ohio State -- I’m sorry, home with Indiana, away at Ohio State, that first weekend in December, packed arenas, it was great. One of the best moves we’ve made is play in December and expand the schedule,” Beilein said.
Overall, the feedback on the Big Ten moving to 20 league games is positive. Nebraska head coach Tim Miles pointed out that the Big Ten is the first league to go to 20 games and he believes more leagues will go to this model.