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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
NEW YORK — Big Ten basketball came to the Big Apple on Thursday for media day and a look at Madison Square Garden, where the conference will hold its tournament in March.
"This is the mecca of basketball," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It always has been. And I think it always will be."
The Big Ten will make its conference tournament debut at the Garden. The championship game, traditionally played on selection Sunday, will be played a week earlier on March 4. The Big East already had MSG booked for the following week.
The shift means playing conference games in December, which is about to become the norm. The Big Ten announced Thursday it is increasing league schedules to 20 games in men's basketball and 18 in women's basketball, starting in the 2018-19 season.
Big Ten men's teams currently play 18 conference games and the women's teams play 16.
"The idea behind the 20-game schedule is to hopefully get more teams in the NCAA Tournament," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "Data showed when we went from 16 to 18 we started getting more in."
The coaches backed the expanded league schedule, but there is some concern about how it will impact nonconference games.
"We've got a pretty full plate, normally," said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, whose team typically plays in-state rival Marquette along with a preseason tournament and the ACC/Big Ten challenge. "And now you add two more conference games, obviously, Power Five games. And you have to make a decision on what you're going to substitute out."
Under the new format, men's teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once, splitting the single matchups evenly between home and away. In-state rivalries Illinois-Northwestern, Michigan-Michigan State and Indiana-Purdue will be played twice annually, and regional rivalries will be emphasized when determining home-and-home opponents.
The women's schedule will include five opponents playing twice, eight once and also emphasize state and regional rivalries.
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