Inside Gopher Athletics: An Early Start for Big Ten Basketball

Nov. 30, 2017 

By Mark Coyle

We were all reminded what a magical place Williams Arena is last night when our men's basketball team battled a top-10 opponent in front of a raucous, sold out crowd. While we all would have preferred to see a win, fans were treated to a tough, hard-fought game between two great teams. I can't thank the fans who packed the Barn last night enough for the energy they brought to the building, and the support they showed Coach Pitino and our students.

With Wednesday's game now in the books, our team will now dip into Big Ten play with a home game against Rutgers on Sunday and a road contest against Nebraska on Tuesday. These games mark a start to the conference season several weeks earlier than previous years. They're also a sneak peek at how our men's basketball schedules will look in the future.

Two months ago, the Big Ten shared that it will move to a 20-game conference schedule for men's basketball starting next season and that early December Big Ten basketball will be a standard part of our schedule moving forward.

Adding two games to league play is a positive for everyone involved, particularly fans, who are now guaranteed another quality home game each season with the addition of another Big Ten opponent. This expanded schedule will also better protect regional rivalries, such as ours with Wisconsin and Iowa. In this new format, we will play these teams 10 times each in every six-year window, and will host each of them five times in those six seasons.

Though still an 18-game schedule this year, we will get our first taste of early December conference games this Sunday. The move up was necessary due to the Big Ten men's basketball tournament moving up a week this year.

After the experience our fans provided for our men's basketball program on Wednesday night, I hope we can usher in a new tradition, our Big Ten opener in early December, in the same fashion. I look forward to seeing many of you at the Barn for Sunday evening's game against Rutgers.

If you're interested in purchasing tickets to this Sunday's game, click here.

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