The Big Ten officially released its 2018-’19 schedule on Tuesday afternoon and there is plenty to react to for fans. The college basketball season is quickly approaching and the Big Ten is set to have another thrilling year.
Let’s dive into some of the biggest takeaways.
1. The closing slate is absolutely phenomenal this year.
While there are a plethora of things to take away from this year’s Big Ten slate, none stand out more than how the season will close. Just take a look at how some of the preseason favorites will close the season:
- 2/23 - Ohio State at Maryland
- 2/24 - Michigan State at Michigan
- 2/27 - Maryland at Penn State
- 2/28 - Nebraska at Michigan
- 3/2 - Michigan State at Indiana
- 3/3 - Michigan at Maryland
- 3/5 - Nebraska at Michigan State
- 3/8 - Minnesota at Maryland
- 3/9 - Michigan at Michigan State
Not only do you get a number of marquee matchups there, but you get two rivalry games between Michigan and Michigan State and a budding rivalry game between Maryland and Penn State as well. Barring something unusual, the league title is probably going to be decided in the final few days of the season thanks to the schedule.
Having a good last few weeks of the regular season shouldn’t be the only concern when creating a schedule, but it’s an important factor. When the world starts focusing on college basketball, you want games that will grab attention. And this schedule should do just that.
2. The return of the early December games should be fun.
A byproduct of last year’s crunched schedule, Big Ten teams found themselves playing two games in early December. There were a lot of mixed feelings about early league games, but it appears that it will be back once again with the new 20-game Big Ten schedule.
And fans shouldn’t be disappointed in this year’s December games.
Not only will they get an interesting battle between Illinois and Ohio State in the United Center, but Maryland also travels to Purdue and the Boilermakers will go on the road to Michigan. It should be a great way to get an appetizer for Big Ten play.
3. It’s obvious, but the 20-game schedule has helped things significantly.
For better or worse, I’ve been previewing Big Ten basketball for the better part of a decade now. There have been plenty of things to talk about over that time, but one of the recurrent topics around this time has been scheduling imbalance. No matter what has happened, it always seems like somebody is getting the short end of the stick.
But this is the first year where it doesn’t seem like anybody has a substantial advantage over everybody else. The top teams are actually playing the top teams, nobody seems to have gotten to avoid quality teams, and everybody has to go into some tough road environments. It’s a welcome change.
Ultimately, this is going to lead to be a better Big Ten and more meaningful conference championships. Nobody is going to back into a top seed in the Big Ten Tournament any longer. And that’s a great thing for fans.
4. Stay tuned to the Hoosiers this season.
Perhaps no Big Ten team looks more intriguing than Indiana heading into the upcoming season. The Hoosiers have an immense amount of talent and are finally hoping to turn the corner under head coach Archie Miller. Expectations are high and fans are eager to see some results on the court from their high-profile coach.
And the schedule should make things even more intriguing. Not only does Indiana face off against Purdue twice this season, but the Hoosiers also get road games against Michigan and Penn State and double-plays against Iowa, Michigan State, and Northwestern. Notably, TRank projects Iowa, Michigan, and Michigan State in the Big Ten’s top five next year.
The most important takeaway, though, is that Indiana has enough rope to either climb to the top or fall to the bottom of the Big Ten. Not only does the team get plenty of manageable games, but it also gets some marquee opportunities. What that means is that fans should be tuned into the Hoosiers all year long.