Friday, October 20, 2017

Big Ten announces 20-game schedule for 2018-19

In a statement released Thursday, the Big Ten announced they have approved a change to the conference schedule, increasing the numbers of men's games from 18 to 20 and increasing the number of women's games from 16 to 18, starting with the 2018-19 basketball season.

The new schedule format for the men will see each team play seven opponents twice and six opponents once (three home, three away). The new schedule allows more in-state and regional games to be scheduled every year. The current 18-game schedule sees each team play five opponents twice and eight opponents once, which will be the new scheduling format for the women when they transition to the 18-game schedule.

The three in-state rivalries (Northwestern-Illinois, Indiana-Purdue and Michigan-Michigan State) will be played twice every season and regional games will also see an increase in frequency.

Perhaps this means more meetings between Ohio State and Penn State or Nebraska and Iowa, for example.

For 2017-18, the three in-state rivalries will only be played once each, with Purdue visiting Indiana, Northwestern hosting Illinois and Michigan at Michigan State.

The Big Ten will announce at a later date the schedule of opponents for 2018-19.

Here's each team's list of double opponents for 2017-18.

Illinois: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State

Iowa: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State

Maryland: Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue

Michigan: Iowa, Maryland, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue

Michigan State: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Minnesota: Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue

Nebraska: Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Northwestern: Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Ohio State: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers

Penn State: Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State

Purdue: Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Rutgers: Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Wisconsin: Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Coaches Poll Unveiled, Duke No. 1

With just 22 days until the start of the regular season on November 10, it's time to start gearing up for the upcoming college hoops season (and wake this blog back up from its slumber).

On Thursday, the preseason USA Today coaches poll was revealed and, to the surprise of no one, Duke is the No. 1 team in the land. They are, without question, the most-talented team in the country, especially after landing Marvin Bagley III. They have a boatload of other talented freshmen coming in, including Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr. and Wendall Carter and they still have Grayson Allen, a strong contender for ACC Player of the Year.

The Blue Devils received 20 of the 32 first-place votes to claim the top spot in the polls.

After a rough season that saw them earn just a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though they did defeat Miami in the first round and gave Kansas a bit of a run in round two, Michigan State is back with heavy expectations, especially after getting Miles Bridges back, who likely could've been a lottery pick had be declared for the NBA Draft. The Spartans have a ton of depth and will be squarely in the mix early for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Tom Izzo's team begins the seasons ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll, receiving nine first-place votes. And by the way, Duke plays Michigan State in the Champions Classic on November 14.

Another year, another high rank for the Kansas Jayhawks, who enter the polls at No. 3.It doesn't matter who they lose, Bill Self is always reloading. Frank Mason is gone but DeVonte' Graham will run the show in Lawrence and likely lead the Jayhawks to their 13th consecutive Big 12 championship and possibly another NCAA No. 1 seed.

Same can be said for No. 4 Kentucky. It's simply another strong recruiting class for John Calipari with seemingly a ton of five-star recruits. And Calipari knows how to coach and make them all work. They'll have size and a lot of it. Boy, that game on November 14 between Kansas and Kentucky is going to be a doozy. Which means the Champions Classic will feature the top four teams in the land.

Rounding out the top five is Pac-12 favorite Arizona, who received two first-place votes. Sean Miller has another talented crew coming back, including three returning starters and some good incoming freshmen. But the FBI investigation surrounding college basketball could also target the Wildcats as one of Miller's former assistants, Book Richardson, was arrested last month. We'll see if anything comes of it out of Tuscon.

Rounding out the top ten are Villanova, Florida (who received the lone remaining first-place vote), American Athletic Conference newcomer Wichita State (who returns basically everybody), defending national champion North Carolina and West Virginia.

The full preseason top 25, with first-place votes in parenthesis:

1. Duke (20)
2. Michigan State (9)
3. Kansas
4. Kentucky
5. Arizona (2)
6. Villanova
7. Florida (1)
8. Wichita State
9. North Carolina
10. West Virginia
11. USC
12. Miami (FL)
13. Cincinnati
14. Notre Dame
15. Minnesota
16. Louisville
17. Xavier
18. UCLA
19. Gonzaga
20. Northwestern
21. Purdue
22. Saint Mary's
23. Seton Hall
24. Baylor
25. Alabama

Others receiving votes:

Texas A&M, Virginia, Butler, Missouri, TCU, Rhode Island, Providence, Wisconsin, Maryland, Oakland, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Virginia Tech, Oregon, SMU, Creighton, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Arkansas, Florida State, South Carolina, Nevada

What do you think? Who are your top teams? Which ranked team will fall? What teams not ranked will climb and make some noise?