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
@B1GMBBall 2017-18 breakdown
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) July 31, 2017
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.