Here are the top 10 games on the Big Ten's weird 2017-18 conference schedule
The Big Ten Tournament is a week earlier than usual, so the regular-season schedule may look strange
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
|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|
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