Big changes are coming to Ohio State’s basketball schedules.
The Big Ten announced today that starting next season, the league will move to a 20 game league schedule, instead of the 18 game slate league teams are currently playing. The conference will “protect” three rivalries, Michigan-Michigan State, Indiana-Purdue and Illinois-Northwestern, which will be played twice a season. Other teams will play seven teams twice and six teams once a season.
The league also said they would prioritize “regional” opponents in setting up future schedules. Over a six year period, a team can expect to play a “regional” opponent 10 times, as opposed to nine for any other opponent. What constitutes a “regional” opponent wasn’t specifically spelled out, but for Ohio State fans, I think we can assume that will at least include Michigan.
So, what does this mean for Ohio State? It’s good news and bad news, in my humble opinion.
What’s the good news?
- This almost certainly will help future RPI and strength of schedule metrics. Over a six year period, those two extra Big Ten games will almost always be better opponents than who Ohio State might schedule out of conference, and the Buckeyes will get an extra opportunity to pick up a quality road win. Trading two low-major games for say, dates with Iowa and Illinois is a win for fans and metrics.
- This makes Big Ten basketball schedules a little more fair. With such a huge league, an 18 game schedule led to some pretty significant variances in schedule difficulty. If you happened to get home and homes with Nebraska and Rutgers, and missed a road trip to a place like Madison, you’d be at a big advantage, standings-wise, over another potential opponent. A larger schedule levels out those imbalances a little bit.
What’s the bad news?
- This probably makes it harder to schedule more difficult out of conference games. New Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann has not been shy about wanting to play an aggressive schedule, but he also told the Columbus Dispatch that hey, “You can’t play 30 high-major games...That’s not fair to your team.” Next season, Ohio State already has a date with Cincinnati, an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, and probably a Gavvitt game against a Big East opponent. If you know you now have two more Big Ten caliber opponents, is there an incentive to go find another KenPom top-75 program? Maybe not. Think of this as trading some potentially interesting games in November for ones in January.
- In the event that one or two Big Ten teams really suck, like Rutgers did in 2016 (KenPom ranking: 279), additional games run the risk of actually diluting Ohio State’s metrics. That horrible Rutgers team might have cost multiple Big Ten squads a seed line in the NCAA Tournament. It’s unlikely a Big Ten team gets that bad again, but hey, you never know.
Overall, it’s probably a good thing for Buckeye fans. The schedules are going to get better, NCAA Tournament resumes may improve, and you get two more games against teams you’re more likely to care about.
It’s not a sure thing, but hey, what is?