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Big Ten basketball coaches weigh in on potential 20 game league schedule

To do, or not do to – hasn’t that always been the question?

In the case of Big Ten basketball, the biggest question is whether or not the league should jump to a 20-game conference schedule to help make the regular season matter more. It’s a question that divides fans, media talking heads and apparently Big Ten coaches as well.

Those advocating for an increased league slate look at it from a competitive standpoint and see a way to help ease some of the scheduling difficulties that are apparent in college basketball these days.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has been for a 20-game league schedule long before it was fashionable or even a discussion, so it should come as no surprise he was again advocating that position come Big Ten media day on Thursday.

[quote_center]”I’ve said this before, so I’m not going to beat a drum here about scheduling, but to play the RPI teams and to play where their RPIs will be at the time, to play 20 games in our league, I think it would be great for the league if we could squeeze it in, if we could do it.”[/quote_center]

Ryan brings up some valid points, especially with the formulaic nature of getting a school’s RPI number to matter come the end of the season. There are certain teams and certain tournaments that will help or hurt the formula for a “Power 5” conference school.

Going to 20 games in the conference and dropping two cupcakes off the schedule from lower mid-major conferences could really help in that case.

Yet, others see the new conference alignments and say there’s no way a true champion can really be crowned…so what’s the point.

For Purdue coach Matt Painter, expansion really hasn’t devalued the honor of being crowned the regular season champion of your conference. Instead, he’s chosen to roll with the punches of college football dominating the decision-making of athletic directors and university presidents or chancellors.

“Yeah, I don’t think it devalues it, it’s just different,” said Painter at Big Ten media day. “Obviously, it’s not consistent, nor is it ever going to be again, because we’re not going to jump up and say we’re going to play 26 league games. That’s not going to happen. You’re just not going to have your true champ.”

However, those were just two of the varied opinions on a topic that will not only affect their jobs, but the way college basketball is scheduled around the country.

As for the Big Ten, it means that in some cases potential border rivalries are going to be put on the back burner. Such is the nature of having eight one-off games in the Big Ten from here on out, and for some coaches that’s the biggest issue out there.

Nebraska head coach Tim Miles was one to point out a situation that was less than ideal last season, where his team met border rival Iowa just once all season long.

“I wish we’d play our border schools more. Last year we played Iowa the first game of the year, and then I honestly don’t know that I watched them again.”

Therein lies the problem with expanding leagues and not expanding the schedule to go along with it.

With an extra two games per season the conference also allows itself an opportunity to generate a more TV friendly schedule and a schedule that’s more balanced than it is this season. There’s a major issue when the league favorite, Wisconsin, only sees fellow preseason top three picks, Michigan State and Ohio State, once each.

Some of the best action over the last decade have come from the multiple meetings between those three schools. Throw in Indiana and Michigan and you have the makings of scheduling hell in an 18-game slate.

Big Ten football will go to a nine-game schedule starting in the 2016 season, perhaps that should be the same time that the basketball teams go to 20 games.

It will allow fans to remember the expanding nature of the league, the extra games between the football and basketball programs and it will allow for the league to better showcase itself on the national stage.

Timing aside — the question shouldn’t be if, but when, the Big Ten makes its move to a 20 game schedule.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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