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 Katz’ first story (which has been replaced by ESPN’s updated story) stated that schools would play everyone in their division twice and everyone in the other division once – similar to the Big 12’s sixteen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|
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.