Here are the top 10 games on the Big Ten's weird 2017-18 conference schedule

The Big Ten's conference slate will play out more sporadically and unlike any other league in college basketball this season. Why the drastic change to the schedule? Come next March, the Big Ten is holding, for the first time, its league tournament at Madison Square Garden. But the Big East is contracted to play in the World's Most Famous Arena in the week leading up to Selection Sunday, as it's done for nearly 40 years. 

This means the Big Ten will play at MSG the week prior -- holding its conference tourney abnormally early, at a time when the handful of other automatic bids getting decided come from small, one-bid leagues. The Big Ten Tournament will actually start in February, on Feb. 28, and wrap up March 4. This will bring a refreshing change of pace to the end of college hoops' regular season, but might also make things tricky for Big Ten teams. 

Ending the season earlier means that Big Ten teams that make the NCAAs will be sitting for their next game for nearly two weeks. 

Making time, and room, for such an early league bracket has prompted the Big Ten to push the start of conference play this season to Dec. 1. It's going to be a wonky year, and it will certainly be interesting to follow how the Big Ten plays out, given it will sprinkle in a usual dose non-conference games amid the early start in December. 

All of this is preamble to the league announcing its 2017-18 schedule. Every Big Ten will play one game at home and one game on the road during the first week of league play. So here are the 10 games to circle on your calendar -- or at least, they're the ones that look most interesting now. TV channels and tip times for these games are still to be determined. 

Purdue at Maryland  (Dec. 1)

The first day of league play offers an interesting tilt, as Purdue brings back almost everyone of impact ... except Caleb Swanigan, who finished No. 2 in CBS Sports' national player of the year race last season. A road game for the Boilermakers against a Maryland team with a strong sophomore class: Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan. Cowan impressed at July's Under Armour All-American Camp. 

Northwestern at Purdue  (Dec. 3)

Purdue gets no easy start to the league season. Talk to Big Ten coaches, and they'll tell you Northwestern has the potential to be a top-three team in the league. Purdue does as well, and this could be an early litmus test for both programs. If Purdue loses two days prior in the league opener at Maryland, winning here could be borderline necessary in order to have a shot to win the league.  

Minnesota at Northwestern  (Jan. 10)

Two programs that have not been traditional powers, but both of which are expected to flirt with 25 wins this in 2017-18. Minnesota was a No. 5 seed in last season's NCAA Tournament and brings back most of its roster. The Gophers won 24 games last season. The program has been around for 122 years and never had back-to-back seasons of 24 wins or more. 

Northwestern at Indiana  (Jan. 14)

Yes, plenty of Northwestern intrigue -- but let's inject some Indiana flavor here. Archie Miller's Hoosiers are fairly enigmatic heading into 2017-18. By mid-January, we'll have a solid idea of this team's NCAA Tournament chances. If Northwestern is playing up to expectations, this will be a solid opportunity for IU. 

Purdue at Indiana  (Jan. 28)

A rivalry's renewal, as Purdue sets up as the strongest team next season -- but winning in Assembly Hall could be a tough ask if Indiana's able to grow into a respectable, tough ball club by this point. 

Michigan State at Maryland  (Jan. 28)

Maryland's growth will be a plot line to track throughout the Big Ten's schedule. The Terps have future pros on this roster, and holding serve at home against a likely top 10 team in Michigan State would be massive. 

Wisconsin at Maryland  (Feb. 4)

Just a hunch: This game could be the type of tilt that goes a long way to determining if Wisconsin can finish as a top-four team in the Big Ten for the 17th consecutive season. The Badgers bring back All-American candidate Ethan Happ, but a lot of new guys will see 20-plus minutes. 

Purdue at Michigan State  (Feb. 10)

If these two wind up as the best in the conference, then obviously this will be a headlining game of that weekend. We could have Miles Bridges in the midst of a player of the year campaign, and if Purdue really is keeping pace with MSU to win the Big Ten, then this game could have No. 1 seed implications for the NCAAs.

The Wildcats are coming off a program record 24 wins last season. Excluding 2016-17, the most combined wins in back-to-back years in school history is 40, when the 2009-10/2010-11 teams won 20 games apiece. Northwestern needs to barely break .500 this season to set a new mark. A home chance here against MSU could be worth a seed line come Selection Sunday. 

Michigan at Penn State  (Feb. 21)

Here's the curveball. Penn State is the sleeper of the league this season, while Michigan is coming off a charmed run to the Sweet 16 -- and most notably returns Moe Wagner, who tested NBA waters but decided to come back. If Michigan is a up and down this season (which wouldn't be a shock; Derrick Walton Jr. and D.J. Wilson will definitely be missed), this could be a crucial road game. 

2017-18 Big Ten conference schedule

Date Game
Friday Dec. 1, 2017 Purdue at Maryland
Friday Dec. 1, 2017 Illinois at Northwestern
Saturday Dec. 2, 2017 Indiana at Michigan
Saturday Dec. 2, 2017 Ohio State at Wisconsin
Saturday Dec. 2, 2017 Penn State at Iowa
Sunday Dec. 3, 2017 Nebraska at Michigan State
Sunday Dec. 3, 2017 Northwestern at Purdue
Sunday Dec. 3, 2017 Rutgers at Minnesota
Sunday Dec. 3, 2017 Maryland at Illinois
Monday Dec. 4, 2017 Wisconsin at Penn State
Monday Dec. 4, 2017 Michigan at Ohio State
Monday Dec. 4, 2017 Iowa at Indiana
Tuesday Dec. 5, 2017 Michigan State at Rutgers
Tuesday Dec. 5, 2017 Minnesota at Nebraska
Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018 Indiana at Wisconsin
Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018 Michigan at Iowa
Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018 Penn State at Maryland
Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018 Nebraska at Northwestern
Wednesday Jan. 3, 2018 Rutgers at Purdue
Wednesday Jan. 3, 2018 Illinois at Minnesota
Thursday Jan. 4, 2018 Maryland at Michigan State
Thursday Jan. 4, 2018 Ohio State at Iowa
Friday Jan. 5, 2018 Wisconsin at Rutgers
Friday Jan. 5, 2018 Northwestern at Penn State
Saturday Jan. 6, 2018 Nebraska at Purdue
Saturday Jan. 6, 2018 Illinois at Michigan
Saturday Jan. 6, 2018 Indiana at Minnesota
Sunday Jan. 7, 2018 Michigan State at Ohio State
Sunday Jan. 7, 2018 Iowa at Maryland
Monday Jan. 8, 2018 No games (CFP)
Tuesday Jan. 9, 2018 Wisconsin at Nebraska
Tuesday Jan. 9, 2018 Purdue at Michigan
Tuesday Jan. 9, 2018 Penn State at Indiana
Wednesday Jan. 10, 2018 Rutgers at Michigan State
Wednesday Jan. 10, 2018 Minnesota at Northwestern
Thursday Jan. 11, 2018 Iowa at Illinois
Thursday Jan. 11, 2018 Maryland at Ohio State
Friday Jan. 12, 2018 Nebraska at Penn State
Saturday Jan. 13, 2018 Michigan at Michigan State
Saturday Jan. 13, 2018 Purdue at Minnesota
Sunday Jan. 14, 2018 Ohio State at Rutgers
Sunday Jan. 14, 2018 Northwestern at Indiana
Monday Jan. 15, 2018 Maryland at Michigan
Monday Jan. 15, 2018 Illinois at Nebraska
Monday Jan. 15, 2018 Minnesota at Penn State
Tuesday Jan. 16, 2018 Wisconsin at Purdue
Wednesday Jan. 17, 2018 Ohio State at Northwestern
Wednesday Jan. 17, 2018 Iowa at Rutgers
Thursday Jan. 18, 2018 Michigan at Nebraska
Thursday Jan. 18, 2018 Minnesota at Maryland
Friday Jan. 19, 2018 Illinois at Wisconsin
Friday Jan. 19, 2018 Indiana at Michigan State
Saturday Jan. 20, 2018 Purdue at Iowa
Saturday Jan. 20, 2018 Penn State at Northwestern
Saturday Jan. 20, 2018 Ohio State at Minnesota
Sunday Jan. 21, 2018 Rutgers at Michigan
Monday Jan. 22, 2018 Nebraska at Ohio State
Monday Jan. 22, 2018 Michigan State at Illinois
Monday Jan. 22, 2018 Maryland at Indiana
Tuesday Jan. 23, 2018 Wisconsin at Iowa
Tuesday Jan. 23, 2018 Northwestern at Minnesota
Wednesday Jan. 24, 2018 Nebraska at Rutgers
Wednesday Jan. 24, 2018 Indiana at Illinois
Thursday Jan. 25, 2018 Penn State at Ohio State
Thursday Jan. 25, 2018 Michigan at Purdue
Friday Jan. 26, 2018 Wisconsin at Michigan State
Saturday Jan. 27, 2018 Iowa at Nebraska
Saturday Jan. 27, 2018 Rutgers at Penn State
Sunday Jan. 28, 2018 Michigan State at Maryland
Sunday Jan. 28, 2018 Purdue at Indiana
Monday Jan. 29, 2018 Northwestern at Michigan
Monday Jan. 29, 2018 Nebraska at Wisconsin
Tuesday Jan. 30, 2018 Indiana at Ohio State
Tuesday Jan. 30, 2018 Minnesota at Iowa
Tuesday Jan. 30, 2018 Rutgers at Illinois
Wednesday Jan. 31, 2018 Penn State at Michigan State
Wednesday Jan. 31, 2018 Maryland at Purdue
Thursday Feb. 1, 2018 Northwestern at Wisconsin
Saturday Feb. 3, 2018 Minnesota at Michigan
Saturday Feb. 3, 2018 Michigan State at Indiana
Saturday Feb. 3, 2018 Purdue at Rutgers
Saturday Feb. 3, 2018 Iowa at Penn State
Sunday Feb. 4, 2018 Wisconsin at Maryland
Sunday Feb. 4, 2018 Illinois at Ohio State
Monday Feb. 5, 2018 Indiana at Rutgers
Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018 Michigan State at Iowa
Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018 Michigan at Northwestern
Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018 Nebraska at Minnesota
Wednesday Feb. 7, 2018 Ohio State at Purdue
Wednesday Feb. 7, 2018 Maryland at Penn State
Thursday Feb. 8, 2018 Wisconsin at Illinois
Friday Feb. 9, 2018 Minnesota at Indiana
Saturday Feb. 10, 2018 Purdue at Michigan State
Saturday Feb. 10, 2018 Iowa at Ohio State
Saturday Feb. 10, 2018 Northwestern at Maryland
Saturday Feb. 10, 2018 Rutgers at Nebraska
Sunday Feb. 11, 2018 Michigan at Wisconsin
Sunday Feb. 11, 2018 Penn State at Illinois
Tuesday Feb. 13, 2018 Michigan State at Minnesota
Tuesday Feb. 13, 2018 Maryland at Nebraska
Tuesday Feb. 13, 2018 Northwestern at Rutgers
Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018 Iowa at Michigan
Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018 Illinois at Indiana
Thursday Feb. 15, 2018 Purdue at Wisconsin
Thursday Feb. 15, 2018 Ohio State at Penn State
Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 Michigan State at Northwestern
Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 Indiana at Iowa
Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 Nebraska at Illinois
Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 Rutgers at Maryland
Sunday Feb. 18, 2018 Ohio State at Michigan
Sunday Feb. 18, 2018 Penn State at Purdue
Monday Feb. 19, 2018 Minnesota at Wisconsin
Monday Feb. 19, 2018 Maryland at Northwestern
Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 Illinois at Michigan State
Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 Indiana at Nebraska
Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 Rutgers at Ohio State
Wednesday Feb. 21, 2018 Michigan at Penn State
Wednesday Feb. 21, 2018 Iowa at Minnesota
Thursday Feb. 22, 2018 Wisconsin at Northwestern
Thursday Feb. 22, 2018 Purdue at Illinois
Friday Feb. 23, 2018 Ohio State at Indiana
Saturday Feb. 24, 2018 Michigan at Maryland
Sunday Feb. 25, 2018 Northwestern at Iowa
Sunday Feb. 25, 2018 Michigan State at Wisconsin
Sunday Feb. 25, 2018 Minnesota at Purdue
Sunday Feb. 25, 2018 Illinois at Rutgers
Sunday Feb. 25, 2018 Penn State at Nebraska
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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