I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Eating Babies PK Sweeping Michigan State
I'm on a streak of "complicated solution to thing that may not be a problem" posts, but here's another one: the Big Ten is moving to a division-less basketball system in which you play four teams once and seven teams twice. This will prompt complaints about schedule balance similar to those launched when the Big Ten played only 16 conference games*. That setup saw four "one-plays" and six home-and-home teams and often saw one team competing for a league title have an obviously smoother road than their competitors; this is almost as bad. Now that Michigan basketball competing for a Big Ten title no longer seems completely laughable, this is IMPORTANT.
Let's not make these one-plays random. Let's divide the Big Ten into four groups based on record, like so:
#1: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue
#2: Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State
#3: Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern
#4: Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana
Now pick one team from each group you're not in. Those are three of your four one-offs. The fourth is a bit trickier: pair up two teams in each group; those are one-plays and done. The leftovers from 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 are also one-plays.
Basketball teams vary from year to year but there's a strong correlation from one year to the next when it comes to record; this system would significantly mitigate situations where one title contender has a big edge in schedule over another.
As a bonus, you could try to protect certain rivalries without having them explicitly guaranteed—pair Purdue with Iowa, not Indiana, and Michigan with Illinois, not Michigan State. I'm with everyone else who thinks not having protected rivalries is dumb. Here's a way to have almost-protected rivalries without doing too much to unbalance schedules.
*[Going to 18 and dumping two guarantee games was widely supposed to be an effort to get the BTN more and better content, and now they're breaking the deadlock in western hockey conferences and getting Michigan out of their chintzy we-can't-host-here-and-we-employ-Mark-Wilkins situation. As a bonus, the extraordinarily annoying Minnesota fans on USCHO are livid. Go BTN.]