Big Ten Basketball Divisions? Just Say No

Dylan Burkhardt


My eyes lit up when I saw Andy Katz’ original report that the Big Ten would utilize the new divisional splits for basketball too. Katz’ first story (which has been replaced by ESPN’s updated story) stated that schools would play everyone in their division twice and everyone in the other division once – similar to the Big 12’s sixteen game conference schedules.

With the divisions announced tonight, obviously that idea was as enticing to Michigan fans as it was dreadful for Penn State fans:

Division X Division O
Ohio State
Penn State
Michigan State

Katz began back tracking shortly after his original article was published and understandably so. The number one issue that was emphasized throughout the Big Ten Network’s (far too long) prime time special was “competitive balance.” This divisional breakdown is anything but balanced – placing 5 traditional powerhouses in a 6 team division.

It would be a nice break for teams on Michigan’s half of the split but it’s just not fair. In the last 25 years — MSU has 7 shares of the regular season conference crown, Michigan has 2, and Minnesota just one (forfeited). The rest have all gone to Division X.

According to Jim Delany, it appears basketball will be spared from divisional misalignment:

“In basketball, they will start their own course,” Delany said. “The sport is structured completely differently.”

So how should the conference construct the schedule on the basketball side of things? I’m all for keeping things simple – stick with an 18 game schedule with 7 double plays and 4 single plays.

A 16 game divisional structure would be going in the wrong direction (fewer games and more imbalance) and a 20 game round robin is more balanced but would put the Big Ten at a disadvantage compared to other conferences.

Commissioner Delaney made it clear that the Big Ten along with  their athletic directors and basketball coaches would put together a plan that made sense specifically for basketball. Judging by their track record thus far, I’m confident that they will settle for the 18 game “round robin” sans divisions. It’s not perfect but it’s the best option.

It might sound disappointing for Michigan fans, who thought they would be blessed with the significantly weaker division, but looking at the situation rationally there’s really no other option.

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  • detroitbry

    Why would b-ball need divisions if the NCAA team is decided in Chicago at the Big 10 tourney?

  • That’s the point and why Katz’ original report made no sense.

  • Beast1530

    They can follow the Big East and SEC model for conference tournament seedings.

    1st round: 2nd Round:

    1A vs. the winner of 3A/6B

    3A vs. 6B

    2B vs. the winner of 4B/5A

    4B vs. 5A

    1B vs. the winner of 3B/6A

    3B vs. 6A

    2A vs. the winner of 4A/5B

    4A vs. 5B

    So top two teams from both division would get a 1st round bye.

  • detroitbry

    Why follow a model? The champion is decided during the tourney, there is no reason to have divisions in basketball. It is simple, you play each team twice, then go to Chicago.

  • (When he says Chicago he means Indianapolis.) ;-)

  • detroitbry

    You drive through Chicago on the way to Indy to get some Garrett’s popcorn. ;^)

  • Boy Blue

    Wouldn’t that just spot Michigan State the Big Ten Title on that side every year?

  • MSU Fan

    While it’d be nice from a wins standpoint for MSU to play divisional ball, it’d kill the RPI and might cost us seeding in the NCAA tournament.

    Going to an 18 game schedule is probably better for everyone, including fans.