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LOOK: Big Ten releases 2018-19 conference slate for Michigan, Michigan State

With the Big Ten moving to a 20-game conference schedule in basketball beginning next season, both Michigan and Michigan State will each play seven conference foes twice and the remaining six only once.

The league disclosed conference slates for all 14 of its members on Thursday, at least home and road opponents for everyone (dates and times will come later on down the road).

As 247Sports author Zach Shaw points out, at least on paper, this could be a somewhat favorable Big Ten slate for Michigan.

The home-only portion consisting Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue were troublesome for the Wolverines this past season, going 1-4 against that trio during the regular season. However, the Huskers have seen three of their top four scorers from this season declare for the NBA Draft (though none have hired an agent). The Buckeyes are losing conference player of the year, junior Keita Bates-Dip, to the pros as well. And the Boilermakers’ senior-laden roster will be graduating plus the possibility of sophomore Carsen Edwards leaving too early after he declared for the draft this offseason.

Conversely, Michigan’s road-only section of the Big Ten docket is composed of the three teams — Illinois, Iowa, and Rutgers — that finished in the basement of the league this season, but figure to be much improved next year (or so we think).

Despite losing do-everything big man Moe Wagner to the NBA last week, the Wolverines still figure to be a contender atop the Big Ten next season with a relatively young and athletic core that gained a lot of experience down the stretch en route to the national championship game.

Michigan incoming freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is also already displaying some Wagner-esque brash confidence as well. Brazdeikis, a 4-star prospect, is the Wolverines’ highest-rated recruit coming in next season and is ranked as the No. 35 overall recruit in the Class of 2018, per 247Sports.

Turning our focus over to Michigan State, who suffered yet another premature exit from the NCAA Tournament this year when they fell to Syracuse in the Round of 32, playing a virtual home game in Detroit.

We know the Spartans, like their rivals from Ann Arbor, will be fielding a different looking rotation of players next season. They have seen arguably their three best all-around players — Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, and Jaren Jackson Jr. — all declare for the NBA Draft since season’s end, though Ward has not hired an agent and still can return.

Head coach Tom Izzo is bringing in yet another well-regarded class to the fold next season, with four of the five commits hailing from the mitten.

Looking at this conference slate for Michigan State, there are a couple of interesting takeaways in the home- and road-only portions of the schedule. Maryland is losing Justin Jackson to the NBA but returns perhaps the best backcourt in the Big Ten in Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, plus a crop of freshman that ranks tops in the league. Also, Wisconsin will be expected to be much-improved after showcasing an extremely young, inexperienced team that gave plenty of conference foes fits, MSU included.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Penn State
Nov 23, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; General view of the Big Ten logo at the Bryce Jordan Center prior to the game between the Colgate Raiders and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State defeated Colgate 72-59. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten announced its decision to expand to a 20-game conference schedule last October, adding in its press release that will “include a regional component to increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas.” A big indicator of this is the three in-state conference rivalries — Michigan vs. Michigan State, Indiana vs. Purdue, and Illinois vs. Northwestern — each being a home-and-home series. There is also an emphasis on travel around the league, as each team will play what the Big Ten dubs as “regional opponents” 10 times over the next six years.

Michigan and Michigan State had played each other once in the regular season since the Big Ten expanded to 14 teams back in the 2014-15 academic season, including this season in East Lansing when the Wolverines downed the No. 4 ranked Spartans, 82-72. Michigan then doubled down in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals with a 75-64 win over MSU.

Written by Alex Muller

MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

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