Basketbullets: 2017-18 Schedule Unveiled

Submitted by Ace on August 18th, 2017 at 12:04 PM

We'll see this matchup once in the regular season. Thanks, Delany. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Big Ten finalized its basketball schedule on Monday, so we now know Michigan's entire hoops slate for the 2017-18 season. The most notable changes from previous years stem from Jim Delany's brilliant decision to host the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden one week earlier than usual, condensing the Big Ten schedule and leaving an awkward off-week before the NCAA Tournament as a result. Here's the full schedule with true home games in bold:

Friday Nov. 3 Grand Valley St. (Exh.) Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Saturday Nov. 11 North Florida Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Monday Nov. 13 Central Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Thursday Nov. 16 Southern Miss Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Monday Nov. 20 vs. LSU Lahaina, Hawai'i (Lahaina Civic Center)
Tuesday Nov. 21 vs. Notre Dame or Chaminade Lahaina, Hawai'i (Lahaina Civic Center)
Wednesday Nov. 22 vs. TBD Lahaina, Hawai'i (Lahaina Civic Center)
Sunday Nov. 26 UC Riverside Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Wednesday Nov. 29 at North Carolina Chapel Hill, N.C. (Dean Smith Center)
Saturday Dec. 2 vs. Indiana Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Monday Dec. 4 at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio
Saturday Dec. 9 UCLA Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Tuesday Dec. 12 at Texas Austin, Texas (Frank Erwin Center)
Saturday Dec. 16 vs. University of Detroit Mercy Detroit, Mich. (Little Caesars Arena)
Thursday Dec. 21 Alabama A&M Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Saturday Dec. 30 Jacksonville Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Tuesday Jan. 2 at Iowa Iowa City, Iowa (Carver-Hawkeye Arena)
Saturday Jan. 6 Illinois Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Tuesday Jan. 9 Purdue Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Saturday Jan. 13 at Michigan State East Lansing, Mich. (Breslin Center)
Monday Jan. 15 Maryland Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Thursday Jan. 18 at Nebraska Lincoln, Neb. (Pinnacle Bank Arena)
Sunday Jan. 21 Rutgers Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Thursday Jan. 25 at Purdue West Lafayette, Ind. (Mackey Arena)
Monday Jan. 29 Northwestern Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Saturday Feb. 3 Minnesota Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Tuesday Feb. 6 at Northwestern Rosemont, Ill. (Allstate Arena)
Sunday Feb. 11 at Wisconsin Madison, Wis. (Kohl Center)
Wednesday Feb. 14 Iowa Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Sunday Feb. 18 Ohio State Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Wednesday Feb. 21 at Penn State State College, Pa. (Bryce Jordan Center)
Saturday Feb. 24 at Maryland College Park, Md. (Xfinity Arena)

You'll note another scheduling tic because of the condensed schedule: Michigan plays Indiana and Ohio State in early December before finishing out their nonconference slate, then resumes conference play after the new year. Some more thoughts on the schedule after the jump.


Non-Conference: RPI Anchors, Top-Tier Opponents

Brian made his annual complaint about basketball scheduling when the nonconference schedule was unveiled in July:

Basketball scheduling items. Michigan draws LSU in the first round of the Maui Invitational. LSU was horrendous last year, going 10-21 and finishing 172nd in Kenpom. They should be better since they'll return everyone they don't run off and add a decent recruiting class featuring top-50 PG Tremont Waters; Michigan should still expect to beat them easily. LSU was 327th in eFG defense a year ago. Beilein will carve them up.

It would greatly behoove Michigan not to lose that game because Chaminade almost certainly awaits the LSU-Michigan loser. Notre Dame, a 26-10 ACC team that got a 5 seed last year and potential good win, is the alternative. Other than Maui, games against UNC, UCLA, and Texas round out the meaningful bits of the schedule.

The rest of the nonconference schedule is the usual:

  • North Florida (#255 Kenpom, #221 RPI last year), CMU (#229/218), and Southern Miss (#325/331) are the first three games after the D-II exhibition against Grant Valley.
  • No similar excuses for UC Riverside (#311/330), Alabama A&M (#351/351), and Jacksonville (#275/305).  Alabama A&M was 2-27 last year and dead last in Kenpom.
  • A game against Detroit (#302/289) at New Joe Louis that is vaguely more acceptable than the other six because it's a local thing.

When you're looking at some other Big Ten team's resume and wondering how in the hell they got a better seed than Michigan, those seven games against awful, awful competition are going to be why. This nonconference schedule has a lot of games that are going to be very hard to win and zero easy wins against decent lower level teams except maybe CMU, which is losing their entire O. I give up.

As Brian notes, winning the Maui Invitational (bracket here) opener against LSU is going to be of paramount importance to the team's strength of schedule. Win and they'll almost certainly face Notre Dame plus another strong opponent, perhaps Wichita State, in either the championship or consolation game. Lose and they're playing Chaminade plus another team that lost in the opening round. That tourney could have a significant impact on M's potential tournament seeding.

Big Ten Slate: Soft-Ish Schedule Isn't Ideal For Fans

Since the Big Ten expanded to 14 teams, each team plays only five home-and-homes against conference opponents, with the rest one-offs. From a scheduling difficulty standpoint, Michigan did fairly well with the conference schedule this year; they only have to play Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin once apiece. Bart Torvik's numbers give Michigan the eighth-toughest conference schedule in the Big Ten. (Michigan State, frustratingly, has the easiest schedule, only in part because they don't have to play themselves.) There isn't a stretch of games that stands out as particularly brutal for Michigan, either—back-to-back road games at Northwestern and Wisconsin in February is about as close as it gets.

While that's nice for amassing wins, fans at the Crisler Center won't get to see the Wolverines take on their chief rival in MSU, nor will they get to see another marquee matchup against Wisconsin. They will, however, be treated to a pasting of Rutgers. Add in the prevalence of neutral-site tournaments that move the best matchups from campuses to ballrooms in the Bahamas and it's getting tougher to justify purchasing season tickets. Michigan gets a full month into the season before playing a worthwhile home game, then only play one more in the month that follows.

Adding protected rivalries won't solve the entire problem—far from it—but it'd be a step in the right direction, and The Athletic's Brendan Quinn reports the Big Ten could be moving that way soon:

Hollis, who is “very much an advocate” for protected rivalries, is confident that the policy could come to fruition as early as October and be implemented for the 2018-19 season. The league’s coaches appear open to it. Athletic directors will address it during a regularly scheduled meeting in the fall.

Moving to a 20-game conference schedule (it's currently 18) is also on the table. If that cut out two games against the Houston Baptists of the college basketball world, I'd be all for it; I'm not sure that's how John Beilein would go about adjusting to an expanded conference schedule, though.

At some point in the near future, we're going to hit the breaking point with basketball scheduling. Michigan had a difficult time filling up Crisler for many games last year even after the team turned the season around and it's not too difficult to see why. There needs to be more incentive for purchasing season tickets (and actually showing up to games) than one quality home non-conference matchup, especially when the conference schedule doesn't guarantee fans will even get to see their main rivalry on an annual basis.



August 18th, 2017 at 12:11 PM ^

sets up to bring out all the usual whiners, with--I'll bet--a number of loses to the very tough teams they will face early on. And sometime in late January or February they will start mowin' 'em down.

Thankfully, Beilein's job security is no longer in doubt. He can just coach these guys. Beyond this year, though, he is setting up for a really nice run. 


August 18th, 2017 at 12:22 PM ^

Wow are there some stinkers there. Good tickets available for Alabama A&M and UC Riverside. At least there won't be long restroom lines.

I understand the appeal of playing at MSG, even with the B1G being mostly out of area. But to do so as a second class tenant and corrupt the entire schedule? It's a bad idea as executed. 


August 18th, 2017 at 1:27 PM ^

suggests a pretty balanced year to me. You need some scrimmage-style games during the season to rest people, try out ideas, and give bench personnel some play. And the little schools need to play people, too. There are also dates when you need a game, and you play teams that are available. 

There will always be grousing about the schedule, but Dylan at umhoops has made a pretty good defense of Beilein's past schedules. 


August 18th, 2017 at 2:20 PM ^

Yeah, I don't get why people freak out so much about these OOC games. These are the types of games that every team needs to work through the kinks, give young guys playing time, and bank some wins. And it's also how these smaller schools fill their budgets. I am a proponent of paying players a fair share, and part of that comes from schools scheduling these games for decent paydays. The complaint basically comes down to RPI anchors (somewhat debatable IMO) and watchibility, which is valid but sorta the deal both in and out of conference (hello Rutgers).


August 18th, 2017 at 11:21 PM ^

You say you don't get it but then you point it out at the end of your post. As Brian says repeatedly every year, you can play a small school where you're like 97% likely to win (according to Kenpom) or 99% likely to win (like M's schedule), but the difference in RPI is significant. There was so much complaining about seeding in last year's tourney and it's because of the RPI.

Rutgers finished at 135 last year on Kenpom. There's actually a wide gulf between them and the teams in the 300's. Teams like Rutgers or a little bit lower than that are what Michigan should try to schedule.

It's one thing to have a few of these anchor games, but Michigan plays too many of them.

EDIT: Obviously this can change a lot from year to year, but I looked up where our non-conference opponents finished on Kenpom last year. LSU is literally the only team in the 100's. So we go from Texas (70's) to CMU (220's) with only LSU in between. Rankings are volatile but there are a lot of mid-major programs that are fairly steady.


August 18th, 2017 at 1:55 PM ^

fans needed to show up to games once the season was turned around.  Season tickets or not, Derrick Walton was playing out of his mind, our bigs were talented and could shoot from anywhere, we were playing meaningful bubble/seeding games, the team was playing hard down the stretch AND our last four home opponents were all attractive: IU, MSU, UW, PUR.

If the attendence wasn't good for those games, it seems only a top ten type of team full of obvious pros like we had in 2013 is the only thing that can get this fanbase excited. I understand not buying season tickets and not going to the Alabama A&M games, but when you can buy individual tickets for as cheap as they were going, there is no excuse not to show up for those last four games (especially since you saved by not buying season tickets!). Sad.


August 18th, 2017 at 2:16 PM ^

I go to about 4-5 games per year and live about an hour from Ann Arbor. Not sure what other schools are doing that we aren't, but weekday basketball is difficult to travel to and weekend basketball is often not worth the $50+ ticket to watch, regardless of how well the team is doing.  I consider myself a basketball die-hard but it's not an easy task to drive to AA at 8:00 on a week night and be home by maybe midnight.  I have no kids and work a 9-5 type of job so I can't imagine swinging it once life gets more busy.  Besides the love of live sports, there's really no reason to come that you wouldn't miss out on by watching on tv



August 19th, 2017 at 3:16 PM ^

This is exactly right. Also, it's a bit much to say "there's no excuse" for fans not showing up. If you're selling something and people aren't buying, blaming them isn't the answer.

Look at it through the eyes of a casual fan (i.e., someone who might attend a game or two but has never heard of kenpom). The last time you went to Crisler, Michigan slept-walked against OSU, and a glance at the standings says U-M is .500ish in the Big Ten. The BTT and Sweet 16 runs—which the casual fan will notice—haven't happened yet. This is why attendance lags performance: It takes a while to reel this part of the public back in.