Analysis: Hawkeyes get nice breaks in 2017-18 Big Ten basketball schedule
Iowa’s 2017-18 basketball schedule is falling into place, and the Hawkeyes' Big Ten Conference portion of the draw seems to be favorable.
As is the case every season in a 14-team league with an 18-game league schedule, schedules are imbalanced across the Big Ten.
Some years, the five home-and-homes (“mirror games,” as the Big Ten terms them) are tougher than others.
The eight one-plays are where Iowa seems to have gotten its best luck.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Two-plays (home and home): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State.
- One-plays, home: Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin.
- One-plays, road: Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Rutgers.
In other words, Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes don’t have to visit the Breslin Center (where they’re 1-19 in their last 20 games), Mackey Arena (always treacherous; Iowa got rolled there in last season’s Big Ten opener) or the Kohl Center (annually one of the Big Ten’s toughest places to win). Missing much-improved Northwestern on the road isn't a bad thing either, even though the Wildcats will be playing home games this year at Allstate Arena while Welsh-Ryan is renovated.
Regarding the single-meeting road opponents, Rutgers probably has the least imposing home-court advantage in the league — Iowa has won by double digits there in each of the past two years. That's a very winnable Big Ten road game.
Regarding the two-plays, only Michigan and Minnesota of that five-opponent bunch are going to be discussed as preseason contenders. Indiana and Ohio State are rebuilding with new coaches, and Penn State annually has a tough time making it out of the league’s bottom four.
All in all, count this as a good scheduling break for Iowa, which figures to be contending for the top four in the league as it brings back most of a 2016-17 roster that finished 19-15 and reached the NIT last season.
The Hawkeyes' non-conference schedule isn't official yet, but they'll play seven of their 13 games away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena: vs. Colorado (in Sioux Falls, S.D.), at Virginia Tech (as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge), at Iowa State, vs. Drake (at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines) and three neutral-site games in the Cayman Islands Basketball Classic.