On Thursday, the Big Ten announced its official 2016-’17 conference slate. Although the game times for these matchups have not yet been released, fans finally got a look at the shape of conference play this season.
While it’s difficult (and impractical) to go through every game of this announcement, a few major details are worth highlighting. Today’s U took a look at the three biggest takeaways from the Big Ten’s scheduling announcement.
— Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit) August 26, 2016
2016-’17 Big Ten Schedule Takeaways
1. Indiana’s slate got much tougher.
Although the Hoosiers won the Big Ten title rather comfortably last season, it wasn’t an achievement that came without controversy. For much of the early portions of conference play, Indiana was routinely criticized for its weak opening slate.
However, that won’t be the case this season. Indiana’s Big Ten schedule isn’t a gauntlet, but it’s more than difficult enough to warrant respect. In particular, Indiana’s final five games look very challenging — they include four road games, including Iowa and Purdue.
Whether the Hoosiers can overcome the tougher slate remains to be seen, but the good news is that fans won’t have to hear about Indiana catching a scheduling break this season.
2. Opportunity is on the table for Illinois.
Perhaps no Big Ten coach is under more pressure to perform this season than Illinois’ John Groce. After four seasons in Champaign, the fans have grown restless. This needs to be a tournaround season for the program.
While one can debate whether Illinois has the talent to get the job done, the schedule could set up very well for the Illini to make a run. A very manageable final eight games of Big Ten play (save Iowa and MSU) mean that if the team can get off to a decent start, it should be in great position to earn a postseason bid.
The beginning of league play will certainly be a challenge for Illinois, but current circumstances suggest the Illini have a great opportunity ahead.
3. Don’t count out Maryland just yet.
When a team loses four starters in an offseason, most will expect a regression. For Maryland, that regression will come for a team that went 27-9 last season and reached the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2003.
Nonetheless, even with those losses, the Terps could make some noise this season. Granted, the roster won’t be as talented, but with just two to four truly challenging road games this season, Maryland could be in the Big Ten race simply due to its schedule. If Maryland can just avoid losses to Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State, it should be able to get another NCAA bid.
Maryland has enough pieces to be good this season, but with a very forgiving schedule, the Terps can continue the program’s impressive recent run.