Brown: Iowa will chase Big Ten's eastern footprint in 2015-16

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – When Billy Taylor got his first look at Iowa's Big Ten basketball schedule for 2015-16, old habits kicked in.

Taylor analyzed the 18-game gauntlet from a coach's eye, an approach left over from his days as the head coach at Lehigh and Ball State. Taylor is now the Hawkeyes' director of operations, and coordinating travel falls under his umbrella.

Once he took off his coaching glasses and looked at Iowa's schedule more closely, he realized the challenge ahead will extend beyond the court.

"The changing landscape of college athletics," Taylor said.

Thursday's schedule release covered the five teams each men's program will play home-and-home next season, as well as the four single-plays at home and on the road. Dates and times will come later.

Iowa has five Big Ten rivals from border states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Illinois. The Hawkeyes play all five just once next season, all but Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has talked of expanding the league's footprint to the east for years. That's happened with the expansion to 14 teams with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers this season. It's also evident with the decision to play the Big Ten Tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., in 2017 and at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2018.

Iowa's basketball team will be walking in that footprint with trips to the league's four eastern-most locales — Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers. The Hawkeyes will travel 6,970 round-trip miles to play nine Big Ten road games this season. That number will grow to 10,062 miles next season.

Iowa took a bus to Wisconsin and Northwestern this season. No need to fuel up that bus next season, except for the ride to the airport in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa's 2015-16 schedule will include a visit to Florida to play in the Orlando Classic, and maybe another trip east as well. The Gavitt Tipoff Games start next season, with eight games featuring Big Ten against Big East teams. Four will be at Big Ten sites, four at Big East sites. Participants have yet to be determined.

Iowa also will host a game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, meet Drake in the Big Four Classic in Des Moines and play at Iowa State.

The Big Ten schedule will follow, with home-and-home dates with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue. The Boilermakers and Michigan return most of their key pieces next season. So does Indiana, unless guard Yogi Ferrell bolts for the NBA.

Iowa plays home games with Northwestern and Nebraska, returning most of their playing rotations, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin. That means Iowa junior Jarrod Uthoff, a transfer from Wisconsin, will never play in Madison again.

"That stinks, actually," Uthoff said. "I really wanted to."

There are also road games at Illinois, Maryland, Ohio State and Rutgers. The Illini lose Rayvonte Rice but get Tracy Abrams back from injury. Maryland loses only No. 2 scorer Dez Wells, unless freshman Melo Trimble goes pro. Ohio State freshman phenom D'Angelo Russell is another one-and-done player. Rutgers loses its top two scorers in Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack.

A lot can, and will, change between now and then. But there's one guarantee: Iowa will be logging plenty of frequent flyer miles in 2015-16.