Once upon a time, it was the norm. Big Ten basketball teams played conference opponents with just one day off between games nearly every week.
Before television began dictating the dates and times of games, the Big Ten had only 10 teams and everyone had a travel partner. When you went and played at Michigan on Thursday, you always played at Michigan State on Saturday. Or Minnesota would come in to play you on Thursday and Wisconsin would be there on Saturday. Everything was a two-game road trip or a two-game homestand with just one day off between.
You had very few games being played on Tuesday or Wednesday and certainly not on Sunday.
But all of that has changed over the past few decades. Games are played every day of the week and it has become pretty unusual for a team to play two conference games just a day apart. It has happened to Iowa just three times in the past 10 seasons.
It will happen to the Hawkeyes twice this season, both times right at the start of the Big Ten schedule.
They open the Big Ten season on Dec. 2 at home against Penn State, then travel to play at Indiana just two days later on Dec. 4. They then resume the conference schedule in early January with the first two games being on Jan. 2 against Michigan and Jan. 4 against Ohio State, both at home.
It’s probably not a huge deal to have game that close together and it might even work in favor of a team that may go 12 or 13 players deep. But it is an indication that the league is trying to cram more games into a smaller amount of time.
It is doing it this season because the Big Ten tournament is being held a week earlier than usual at Madison Square Garden in New York. That’s why we have conference games being played in early December for the first time since the early 1950s.
Just think of how congested the schedule might get if the Big Ten expands from 18 conference games to 20 next season, as has been reported in a few places. Teams could be playing more than just two conference games in December.
The 20-game league schedule could have all sorts of ramifications. With the 18-game slate this season, Iowa has 10 non-conference games in addition to a tournament in the Cayman Islands. So, presumably it would have eight non-league games in future seasons and half of those dates will be eaten up the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Gavitt Games, the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic and the annual matchup with Iowa State.
That leaves only four slots for the Alabama States and Chicago States of the world. That’s a good thing for the fans and a good thing for a team’s RPI when it comes to NCAA selection time. But it doesn’t leave much time for teams to work out the kinks against sub-par opponents.
As for Iowa’s full basketball schedule for this season, the Hawkeyes will have at least nine different starting times for games and will play multiple games on every day of the week. The schedule calls for seven games to be played on both Tuesday and Saturday, four each on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, three on Friday and two on Monday. It's not like the old days where everything was on Thursday and Saturday.