The addition of Nebraska as the Big Ten's 12th team signals the end of a 19-year era of scheduling for 11 basketball teams. It also marks a return to the practice of each team playing four league opponents only once a year for a two-year cycle. This is the same method employed by the conference during its 10-year experiment with a 16-game schedule, which started in 1997.
When the Omaha World-Herald recently reported on Nebraska's inaugural Big Ten basketball schedule, it added insight into what opponents the Badgers may face in 2011-12. Wisconsin is among the seven teams who will play a home and home series with the Cornhuskers this season.
Using this nugget, along with knowledge of UW's previous "single-play" opponents, we can deduce the majority of Wisconsin's league slate. And with the recent announcement of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge pairings, the non-conference is rounding into shape also.
Here is a projected schedule for the 2011-12 Wisconsin men's basketball season. The official conference schedule will be released in August.
at North Carolina
Chicago Invitational Challenge (likely three games against Nevada, BYU and Bradley)
Four "buy" games
Home and away:
at Ohio St
The Badgers will resume their home-and-home schedule with Iowa and Minnesota, having played each team only once the past two seasons. Add Nebraska and recent single plays Ohio State and Michigan State to the home-and-home roster as well.
Next in line for Wisconsin to miss games with in the next two-year cycle of single plays would be Northwestern and Penn State, which unfortunately are two very beatable opponents at this juncture. Wisconsin has played each of them 12 times in the past six years.
With an 18-game schedule, this leaves only four programs in limbo: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Purdue. All were single plays for Wisconsin in 2006-07, the final year of the 16-game schedule. I anticipate the schedule makers will choose to skip Illinois and Michigan. My reasoning is simple. Going back to to the start of the unbalanced schedule when Penn State joined the league in 1992-93, Wisconsin has played Iowa, Indiana and Purdue the fewest times out of their Big Ten brethren. Can you believe that -- Iowa?
|Season||Illinois||Indiana||Iowa||Michigan||Michigan St.||Minnesota||Northwestern||Ohio St.||Penn St.||Purdue|
During the Big Ten spring meetings, leadership also initiated discussions about starting conference play earlier in December to avoid clashing with the hoopla of the football bowl season. A decision on the matter is a not a high priority however, and probably would not impact the schedule until years from now.