Big Ten OKs 18-game conference schedule

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Big Ten basketball schedule is about to get longer.

Conference officials have approved an 18-game conference schedule starting next season, although details of how it will be implemented have not yet been released.

"The coaches know about it," conference spokeswoman Robin Jentes said Tuesday.

Some coaches were apparently unaware it had already passed. After speaking to the Indianapolis Rotary Club on Tuesday, Indiana's Kelvin Sampson discussed the possible scenario but was uncertain when a final decision would be made.

Jentes said the measure was approved at a meeting last week.

"There would be a big difference if we played 18 conference games this year," Sampson said. "We already play Kentucky, Connecticut and Georgia Tech, so that's really like 21, and then we go to Southern Illinois, too, so that's like 22."

The change will affect both men's and women's teams, Jentes said, and it's uncertain how games that have already been contracted out will be affected. Two nonconference games are likely to be lost by each team.

Big Ten schools had traditionally played 18 league games until adopting a conference tournament in 1997. To make room for tourney games, conference officials reduced the season by one week, cutting two Big Ten games off the schedule.

Some, such as Purdue coach Matt Painter, support the 18-game concept.

"I think it gives our conference a more balanced schedule," Painter said in a statement released by the athletic department. "It's a step toward crowning a truer regular-season champion. I also think it has the potential to help our overall conference RPI and gives our fans another home Big Ten game to watch."

The move came on the same day pairings were announced for the ninth annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Wake Forest visits Iowa on Nov. 26, the only game of the night. The highlighted games Nov. 27 are Wisconsin at Duke and Georgia Tech at Indiana. Minnesota and new coach Tubby Smith also visit Florida State on Nov. 27, while the remaining games are Purdue at Clemson and Northwestern at Virginia.

Two more games with potential national implications -- North Carolina at Ohio State and Illinois at Maryland -- will be played Nov. 28. The other three games are: North Carolina State at Michigan State, Boston College at Michigan and Virginia Tech at Penn State.

The ACC has won all eight challenges and holds a 48-27 overall lead in the series.

Sampson was just happy to get a home game.

"Last year we were at Duke, so we appreciate being able to play at home this year," Sampson said. "I'm glad we get to play at home in our non-conference schedule because last year we had so many road games."