NEW YORK — The Big Ten confirmed Thursday what already had been widely rumored and reported.
It will begin playing 20 conference games in men’s basketball instead of 18 next season. The new plan also includes a provision to ensure that teams from the same state will play each other twice every season.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at the league’s preseason media day at Madison Square Garden that the conference felt it needed to control the number of quality games that teams play. He said the move to playing more conference games in football has been well-received, and he felt the same approach needed to be applied to basketball.
"We think in general people respond more to conference games than nonconference games," he said.
While it will mean a few less guaranteed wins against opponents from lower level Division I conferences, it should improve the RPI and strength of schedule for league teams when it comes time for postseason tournament selections.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo likes something else about it: He said it will help sort out who really is the best team in the league.
"Does it give us less of a chance to play a couple of teams? Maybe," Izzo said. "But I've also been a big fan of the truest champion you could have, and I think that when you're only playing 16 and an 18, sometimes the schedule determines some of the championships over the performance on the court."
Michigan coach John Beilein said the coaches were very nearly unanimous in wanting the 20-game schedule.
"It just makes a lot of sense," he said.
Under the new format, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once each season. The opponents will change on a rotating basis, but the three instate rivalries in the conference — Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State and Illinois-Northwestern — always will play twice.
"I think any time you have two teams in the same conference in the same state, they should play," Illinois coach Brad Underwood added. "I think that’s what the fans want."
The league also said there will be "a regional component to increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas." In other words, Iowa likely will play Nebraska and Minnesota a little more often than it plays Rutgers and Maryland.
The Big Ten also announced that the women’s basketball schedule will increase from 16 games to 18 next season. Teams will play five opponents twice and eight teams once. It also will include similar protection for instate and regional rivalries.
Happ honored: Former Rockridge High School star Ethan Happ was one of 10 players named to the 10-player preseason All-Big Ten team Thursday.
Happ, a 6-foot-10 junior who averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds per game last season for Wisconsin, was one of only three unanimous selections.
Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges is the preseason player of the year, and he and Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh were the other unanimous picks.
Also named to the team were Nick Ward of Michigan State, Scottie Lindsey of Northwestern, Justin Jackson of Maryland, Mo Wagner of Michigan, Vincent Edwards of Purdue and Nate Mason and Amir Coffey of Minnesota.
Opening act: The first coach to speak at Thursday’s media day was Nebraska’s colorful and quotable Tim Miles, who noticed that he very often is one of the first coaches on the schedule.
"I feel like I’m the 'Good Morning, Vietnam' guy …" Miles said when he took the stage right after Delany’s opening remarks.
"I love following Commissioner Delany," Miles added. "You know he’s highly intelligent when he can talk that much and say that little."
Home away from home: After leading Northwestern to its first NCAA tournament berth, Wildcats coach Chris Collins faces a different sort of challenge this season.
His team will play all its home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont while Welsh-Ryan Arena is being renovated.
He said he’s spent some time talking to DePaul’s coaches to get a feel for what the Allstate facility will be like.
"I told our older guys ‘We just need to make it our home,’" Collins said.
Hobbled Gophers: One Big Ten team that has been beset with several off-season injuries is Minnesota, which returns almost its entire team from a 24-10 season.
Sophomore forward Eric Curry, who averaged 5.5 points per game as a freshman, already is out for the year after tearing the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee during a pickup game.
A few other players, including starters Reggie Lynch and Dupree McBrayer, have injuries that are limiting them in practice.
“It's been difficult because we have had a lot of guys who are allowed to practice but not do contact,’’ head coach Richard Pitino said. “So it's tough to figure out where are we at from a defensive standpoint, a rebounding standpoint, all those physicality things that you can't work on.’’
Tickets available: Tickets for the 2018 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden will go on sale to the general public on Saturday at 9 a.m.
The 21st annual tournament is scheduled for Feb. 28 through March 4.
Tickets, priced from $160 to $450, are available at the MSG box office, via Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000. Lower level tickets for the tournament, priced at $600, can be purchased through the individual schools. Single-session tickets for students at Big Ten universities will be sold for $20 with details to be announced at a later date.
Rosemont, Ill. – Michigan State’s Miles Bridges has been chosen as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year heading into the 2017-18 men’s basketball season as voted on by a panel of conference media. The media also selected a 10-member preseason All-Big Ten team, with eight conference squads represented.
Bridges was also a unanimous selection to the preseason All-Big Ten team, along with Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. Maryland’s Justin Jackson, Michigan’s Moritz Wagner, the Spartans’ Nick Ward, Minnesota’s Amir Coffey and Nate Mason, the Wildcats’ Scottie Lindsey and Purdue’s Vincent Edwards also earned preseason All-Big Ten plaudits.
Bridges was named a second-team All-Big Ten honoree by both the coaches and media last season. McIntosh was a second-team recipient in both ballots, while Mason and Happ claimed first-team All-Big Ten honors by both the coaches and media. Wagner and Ward were honorable mention All-Big Ten recipients in both ballots; Coffey was named to the All-Freshman Team; Lindsey was a third-team All-Big Ten recipient by the coaches and earned honorable mention plaudits from the media, while Edwards earned honorable mention acclaim from the coaches, and third-team All-Big Ten recognition from the media contingent.
The complete 2017-18 preseason All-Big Ten team can be found below.
2017-18 PRESEASON BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
2017-18 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM*
Justin Jackson, F, Maryland
Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan
MILES BRIDGES, G/F, Michigan State
Nick Ward, F, Michigan State
Amir Coffey, G, Minnesota
Nate Mason, G, Minnesota
Scottie Lindsey, G/F, Northwestern
BRYANT MCINTOSH, G, Northwestern
Vincent Edwards, F, Purdue
ETHAN HAPP, F, Wisconsin
* - Additional honorees due to ties in voting
Unanimous selections in ALL CAPS