ROSEMONT, Ill. — The 2018 Big Ten Basketball Media Day kicked off early Thursday morning with Commissioner Jim Delany announcing one big change to the conference schedule. After increasing the number of conference games played from 16 to 18, the Big Ten will now play a 20-game conference schedule.
In the new scheduling, there will be three protected rivalries: Illinois vs. Northwestern, Indiana vs. Purdue, and Michigan vs. Michigan State.
Delany continued to say that 80 percent of conference tournaments will be held in the Midwest region. Chicago and Indianapolis will continue to be tournament sites, but added that there is a possibility that other cities will be able to make their bid.
With a 20-game conference schedule, in addition to the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Big Ten teams should play a very competitive 22 games at year at minimum. All of the coaches asked about the new format today expressed their satisfaction with the new schedule in the hopes that a couple more conference game a year can solidify their cases as quality tournament teams come Selection Sunday.
Wisconsin’s Greg Gard was the first coach to take the podium this morning and, like many other coaches, his team’s biggest battle is themselves. The Badgers are a team that returns a lot of guys, including former First Team All-Big Ten selection Ethan Happ, and also adds a couple solid young pieces.
“Just looking through things with [Happ] statistically, what he’s done for this program, he’s going to go down as one of the best that’s ever played at Wisconsin, obviously his impact on and off the floor has been tremendous,” Gard said.
Wisconsin missed the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in 20 years, but Gard will rely on his fifth-year senior to take them dancing again.
Vic Law stole the show this morning when he disguised himself as a media member and asked how Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins plans to use his senior forward this year.
Tim Miles and his Nebraska team turned some heads last season when the Cornhuskers finished fourth in the Big Ten, but were left on the outside looking in when it came time for Selection Sunday.
“This is a good group, a group that has I think a high ceiling,” Miles said. “When you look at James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland playing better than I have ever seen. Glynn Watson, I think he realizes where he fits in with this group, after having to carry a big load for a couple years as a younger player, then fitting in later in life. Isaiah Roby is getting better and better, too.”
Nebraska is as good as they’ve been in years and have the potential to finish amongst the top of a Big Ten conference that’s relatively open.
Purdue returns reigning All-Big Ten First Team selection and preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Carsen Edwards. The Boilermakers do not, however, return much of their production outside of that. Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias and Vincent Edwards all graduated last year, which leaves Matt Painter with some serious holes to fill.
“We have a lot of new guys to sprinkle in, a fifth-year transfer, two redshirt freshmen, three true freshmen that I feel really good about,” Painter said. “I think they’re all going to be good players. When they’re going to be good players is obviously the question anytime you have inexperience.”
Edwards is one of the best players in the country. But how will he gel with so much inexperience around him?
Across the border, over in Bloomington, Archie Miller landed himself a decent backcourt recruit of his own. Romeo Langford, a top-10 recruit in the class of 2019, decided to stay home and play for the Hoosiers this fall. That spells trouble for opposing defenses.
“There’s a lot of hype around [Langford],” Miller said. “Obviously being from the state, going to IU, I think that’s going to make it a bigger story than anything. He’s always had a lot of eyes on him. Always been a calm type of guy under pressure. He’s shown that. I think the thing that’s been really enjoyable so far about Romeo is he’s just like one of the other guys. He’s embraced his teammates. We’re coaching hard. He’s being coached. He’s asking questions. He knows he’s not perfect. Like a lot of guys, he’s a typical freshman here early in his career, where he’s just trying to find his way and learn it.”
Mark your calendars for March 7th, Illinois fans. A Romeo/Ayo matchup is just what this border battle needed.
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