The Big Ten announced next season’s opponent breakdown for men’s basketball on Thursday afternoon. For the first time in conference history, the men’s side will play 20 league games in the 2018-2019 campaign. Here are the opponent pairings for Rutgers:
Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska
Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin
Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State
Rapid Reaction With Five Takeaways:
- Don’t read too much into the schedule, because it’s simply WAY TOO EARLY to really know. Rutgers still has two scholarship spots to fill and several other Big Ten teams have work to do as well. Last season, Rutgers was scheduled to play Ohio State, Illinois, and Nebraska twice each and it appeared to be a great draw, as all three opponents finished 11th place or worse the year before. That thought, which I also had at the time, was completely wrong. Ohio State finished in third place and Nebraska in fourth place, with both teams easily sweeping RU. While Illinois struggled to an 12th place finish this past season, they also swept Rutgers with two double digit victories, as it turned out to be a terrible matchup for the Scarlet Knights.
- Hosting Maryland and Michigan are marquee games at the RAC and allow Rutgers to avoid playing those teams on the road, where they’ve never won in Big Ten play.
- The road only games against Illinois, Purdue, and Wisconsin take place at venues Rutgers has traditionally played poorly at. Just this past season, the Scarlet Knights lost by 31 points at both Purdue and Illinois. The year before, Rutgers lost by 19 at Purdue and by 20 at Wisconsin. However, during the past two seasons, Rutgers is 1-1 at the RAC against Illinois, beat Wisconsin at the RAC in January and lost a heartbreaker at the Garden the past two years, while they almost stunned Purdue at the RAC this past season, losing by 2 points without Eugene Omoruyi and Mike Williams. My point is it would have been a lot better to play these three teams at home versus away, but every season is different too, so who knows.
- Rutgers plays Michigan State twice during the regular season for third time in four years. Thanks Jim Delany. However, kudos on the decision to pair regional opponents (Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State) with home and home series, which makes a lot of sense.
- Four of the five Big Ten opponents that Rutgers beat last season are teams they will face twice in the 2018-2019 regular season. They include Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, and Northwestern.
Here is a Q&A that the conference included in the scheduling press release pertaining to the changes made for next season, in part due to the added two league contests.
Big Ten Assistant Commissioner Kerry Kenny explains a few details behind the scheduling process.
Q: What are the biggest changes to both the men’s and women’s basketball schedules for the 2018-19 season?
A: Beginning with the 2018-19 season, the men will move to a 20-game scheduling format, while the women will move to an 18-game format. On the men’s side, each team will play seven opponents twice (home and away) and six opponents once (three home, three away). The women’s format will see teams play five opponents twice (home and away) and eight opponents once (four home, four away). In total, the new conference schedules will feature 140 men’s games (up from 126 games last season) and 126 women’s games (up from 112 games last season), resulting in an 11% and 13% increase, respectively.
Q: How will this change impact the rotation of single-play and double-play opponents next season?
A: The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals - Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis. Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically. Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.
Q: Are there any other factors that were taken into consideration when developing the future rotation of opponents?
A: In order to achieve a sense of continuity in the year-to-year scheduling format, the 2018-19 rotations, both men and women, were developed to ensure that a team did not have a repeat occurrence of a home single-play or away single-play opponent from 2017-18. For example, since the Michigan State men only played on the road at Ohio State last season, they are not scheduled to play Ohio State only on the road during the upcoming season.
Q: Now that the opponents have been determined, when will the final schedules be released?
A: In mid-August, BTN will telecast the initial public announcement of the men’s and women’s conference basketball schedules with game matchups and dates only. The game times and network designations will be released by the conference after Labor Day.
Here is the complete scheduling pairings for the rest of the Big Ten next season.