Take on a starry opponent to get the juices flowing, pay a one-game contract to an easily-beaten cupcake, or focus on practices and fundamentals with a break from game action.

Different Big Ten coaches vary in their philosophies on how to treat their two mini-breaks in January and February, which can last a minimum of five and up to nine days.

With a 10-week conference season and each Big Ten team playing 18 games, that means Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and everybody else has two "bye" half-weeks during the league schedule.

"People have done it two ways," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of teams who want to fill the crease on Monday's conference call. "They've played a real good team on a made-for-TV kind of event, or played a team that they should beat just to try to stop the bleeding once in a while if you've got a brutal schedule."

In the past decade, the only time the Hawkeyes filled an in-conference void with a non-league opponent was two year ago, when they hosted Tennessee State on Jan. 12, 2010, winning 67-62.

The year after Tom Davis finished his Iowa coaching career, Iowa hosted and defeated Kansas 77-69 on Feb. 3, 2000 in Steve Alford's first season.

Current coach Fran McCaffery indicated Monday he would consider replacing a bye with a game, but typically favors the breather.

"We had the nine-day break, and a lot of guys like to squeeze one in there and get more space early (in the nonconference season)," McCaffery said. "I would still tend to get them all in and then play our conference exclusively."

After not playing a game from Jan. 17-26, Iowa (13-11, 5-6 Big Ten) will get a week off after Thursday's tilt at Northwestern. The only non-sequential MAAC games Siena played during McCaffery's tenure were part of ESPN's BracketBusters series.

"It's funny, because sometimes there's times when your team is tired and boy, you could use a break," McCaffery said. "Maybe somebody's banged up, so you could use a couple more days. It's not something you can get perfect ahead of time."

The only two Big Ten teams playing out-of-conference during the league slate are Michigan, who lost a close one at Arkansas Jan. 21, and Indiana, hosting North Carolina Central Feb. 22.

In John Beilein's five years, the Wolverines have tried to strengthen their schedule against Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, UCLA and other perennial contenders. Michigan's academic calendar differs from many other schools, forcing creativity to scheduling.

"Because of the crossovers between the agreements between the SEC and Big East - and now it'll be Big Ten and Pac-12 - it's really hard to get an RPI home or away game in the first semester," Beilein said. "The only way we can strengthen our schedule ... is to arrange a CBS game on a Sunday."

Beilein added he's opinionated at Big Ten meetings when it comes to scheduling.

"I don't think we need two byes in a week now that we have 12 teams - I don't know that we should have any byes," Beilein said. "Let's just play every Wednesday or Saturday or whatever it is."

Last year, Big Ten teams played three January and February non-league games: Kansas at Michigan, SIU-Edwardsville at Northwestern and Purdue at West Virginia.

White strengthens rookie campaign: Two of the five spots reserved for all-Big Ten freshman team can be etched into stone: Indiana center Cody Zeller and Michigan guard Trey Burke.

Meanwhile, Iowa forward Aaron White is making an awfully strong push to be another rookie-team lock, which would be Iowa's fourth in as many years following Matt Gatens, Eric May and Melsahn Basabe.

White claimed his third Big Ten Freshman of the Week award Monday, sharing it for the second time.

"Aaron White, in particular, has really taken his game to another level," McCaffery said. "It's fun to watch him continue to get better and better every game."

The Strongsville, Ohio, product averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals in wins over Minnesota and Penn State. He played 28 and 32 minutes in the victories, respectively, increasing his season average of 20.6.

"The impressive thing is how he's developed his stamina to be able to continue to do it," McCaffery said. "When I was at Notre Dame, we had Pat Garrity who ran hard all the time. Aaron's got that same speed and length. Now I'm playing him more, so he's getting his body ready to play 32-35 minutes a game."

Garrity was a second-team All-America with the Fighting Irish in 1998 and went on to play 10 years in the NBA.

White shared this week's honor with Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski, a 6-foot-1 guard. Sobolewski's teammate, senior John Shurna, and Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger were each Players of the Week.

Hostile helps: Because of its star power and lofty ranking, Ohio State seems to take every team's best shot, not to mention that of every road opponent.

From Kansas to South Carolina and Illinois to Wisconsin, the arrival of the third-ranked Buckeyes has sent electricity through several campuses. Though his team has lost three road games, Thad Matta believes the experience will help Ohio State in March and possibly April.

"We have seen some terrific crowds. We talk about it," Matta said. "We say there's a reason these people are here, and you have to be strong enough and tough enough to continue to concentrate and think and not let it get the best of you."

Hostile hurts: On the other hand, when the Buckeyes play at home, they've got one of the rowdiest student sections around at Value City Arena, especially since the NutHouse (OSU students) was moved to behind the team's benches last year.

"It's a little over the top, there's no doubt about that. But that's part of the pageantry of college basketball, so my hat's off to them," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "It's not a place I want my family sitting anywhere nearby."

 

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