The Big Ten announced Thursday morning that men's basketball will go to a 20-game schedule beginning in 2018-19. The vote was made official last week by the conference's administrators council and was revealed in advance of its league media day at Madison Square Garden.
The Big Ten will be the first conference to play 20 conference games in the history of Division I basketball, a season earlier than the ACC, which will play 20 league games in 2018-19. We might only be halfway to more leagues doing the same as coaches in the SEC and Pac-12 have told CBS Sports that their leagues are also mulling going to a 20-game conference docket.
The Big Ten's change of currently playing 18 conference games will prompt an earlier start to the conference season, pushing intra-league dates up to December. The Big Ten gets a dress rehearsal of sorts with that this season as. The reason? The league will hold its tournament at Madison Square Garden for the first time and because the Big East is contractually locked in to play its league tournament in the days leading up to Selection Sunday, the Big Ten will play at MSG a week prior to the Big East.
As for the schedule changes coming next year, regional rivalries will be protected. There are three in-state series that will be guaranteed home-and-homes: Illinois and Northwestern, Indiana and Purdue, and Michigan and Michigan State will always play twice.
"Under the new men's format, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home, three away) in a given season," the Big Ten's press release says. "The new schedule will also include a regional component to increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas. Over the course of a six-year cycle (12 playing opportunities), in-state rivals will play each other 12 times, regional opponents will play 10 times, and all other teams will play nine times."
The Big Ten and ACC going to a 20-game schedule means those conferences will eliminate the obligation of two non-conference tilts to fill out a 30-game regular season slate. With this, there is concern from some that a sport already in need of more consistently attractive and compelling non-league games in its first six weeks of the season will find itself overpopulated with top-50 programs scheduling buy games against the bottom half of the sport. After all, if ACC and Big Ten coaches just got handed an additional road game in their league, why would the feel the need to schedule another roadie outside of conference play?
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at Big Ten media day that this move for the Big Ten was done because, "We thought playing against each other more was good, and good for the Big Ten and good for college basketball in general."
That last statement remains to be seen. What's also true: A 20-game schedule will serve up more money-making opportunities for the Big Ten Network, which will add to its coveted inventory of live sports programming.