LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa women's basketball opens its 2017-18 Big Ten Conference schedule Dec. 28 at Wisconsin. It then faces two biggies back-to-back right after that, hosting Michigan Dec. 31 and traveling to Maryland Jan. 4.

Those immediate tests will be a good barometer for the Hawkeyes. Other than Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan are the significant Big Ten favorites.

"We are looking forward to another challenging Big Ten season," head coach Lisa Bluder said in a press release. "Our double games are all against border states — Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin — and I think our fans will really enjoy that. I also like the opportunity to wrap up our season at home as we face Indiana. Our supporters have always been amazing at sending our senior classes out in style."

Overall, the first half of the schedule is significantly tougher for Iowa. Wins in those Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State games will be tall tasks. And five of the Hawkeyes' first seven conference games come on the road.

But they could very well run the table in their final eight conference games; they will be favored in each. Michigan State is depleted and will take a significant step back this year. Penn State is a dark horse, but Iowa will play that game in Iowa City. Then, it would be an upset if Iowa loses to any of the rest of its final eight opponents (Nebraska, Minnesota, Rutgers, Indiana, Northwestern and Wisconsin).

The full 2017-18 Big Ten schedule was released on Big Ten Network on Wednesday. Here is Iowa's, which features six weekend home games:

Dec. 28: at Wisconsin

Dec. 31: vs. Michigan

Jan. 4: at Maryland

Jan. 7: at Illinois

Jan. 13: vs. Purdue

Jan. 16: at Nebraska

Jan. 21: at Minnesota

Jan. 25: vs. Ohio State

Jan. 28: vs. Nebraska

Feb. 1: at Michigan State

Feb. 4: vs. Minnesota

Feb. 8: vs. Penn State

Feb. 11: at Northwestern

Feb. 18: vs. Wisconsin

Feb. 21: at Rutgers

Feb. 24: vs. Indiana

Feb. 28-March 4: Big Ten Tournament

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE