Protected Rivalries Are Probably Coming to Big Ten Basketball

By RossWB on May 18, 2017 at 9:16 am
Get ready for a lot more of this.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

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The topic of protected rivalries in Big Ten basketball comes up every few years, usually when one of the Big Ten's marquee rivalries -- like Indiana-Purdue or Michigan-Michigan State -- only gets played once a year instead of twice, thanks to the whims of the Delanybot 9000. The protected rivalry issue is getting discussed again these days -- but it seems like there might actually be some progress on the matter. Per Kyle Austin at MLive.com

A proposal to make Michigan-Michigan State a protected Big Ten basketball rivalry received "unanimous" support at a recent meeting of the league's coaches, Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said this week at the conference's joint meetings.

Becoming a protected rivalry would guarantee the two schools would play twice per season every year going forward.

At the meetings this week at Big Ten headquarters, the league's athletic directors agreed to send the idea to the conference schedulers to ensure building in a protected rivalry parameter wouldn't have adverse affects for the rest of the league, Bobinski said.

Bobinski said he didn't think the protected rivalries could be added in time for the 2017-18 schedule, but said "I think we'll get there in the reasonably near future." Michigan-Michigan State and Indiana-Purdue were the two protected rivalries discussed, and Illinois and Northwestern also requested to have their rivalry protected, Bobinski said.

Again, Michigan-Michigan State and Indiana-Purdue get namechecked, as well as Northwestern-Illinois of all things. The Illinois and Northwestern hoopsters don't even play for a bronze hat!  But it does seem like protected rivalries are coming to B1G hoops soon, so what does that mean for Iowa? Get ready for a double dose of #Nebrasketball every year.

Indiana-Purdue, Northwestern-Illinois, and Michigan-Michigan State are the only three rivalries called out as protected rivalries, but we can make some educated guesses on what the protected rivalries would be for every other Big Ten team, too. 

Ohio State-Penn State
Maryland-Rutgers (sorry, Terps)
Minnesota-Wisconsin
Iowa-Nebraska

I think the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry is the one that most gets the blood boiling among Iowa fans. There's a lot of off-court fodder there between transfers, de-commitments, and legacy kids, and the on-court product has produced a lot of killer games and moments as well -- we won't soon be forgetting Jordan Bohannon's game-winning three to knock off the Badgers in Madison this past season, for instance. And I'd certainly rate the Iowa-Minnesota hoops rivalry ahead of Iowa-Nebraska, especially if Little Pitino is able to keep the Gophers on the upward trajectory from this past season. But Minnesota-Wisconsin is one of the oldest rivalries in the Big Ten and in general those two states and programs seemed joined at the hip in a lot of ways. It would be quite a surprise if the Big Ten didn't make them protected rivals. 

Which leaves #Nebrasketball as the most likely dance partner for Iowa in a protected rivalry hoedown. Iowa and Nebraska have played 10 times since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, with Iowa going 7-3. Nebraska won the first-ever B1G meeting between the teams, but Iowa's owned the series of late, taking six of the last seven, including five in a row over 2013 to 2016. The lone #Nebrasketball win in that stretch was a wild 93-90 2OT game last season that Iowa had several opportunities to win, but couldn't finish off. That game also doubles as the most memorable the series has produced, a high-scoring back-and-forth duel between Peter Jok and Glynn freaking Watson (who made 7/8 threes in that game), who each posted up 34 point performances. 

That thriller also sticks out for being one of the few close games in the series. The average margin of victory in Iowa-Nebraska games in the Big Ten is 10.7 points per game -- and it's only that low because the three Nebraska wins have been close (79-73, 64-60, 93-90). Iowa has a 15.5 points per game average margin of victory in their seven wins in the series, with the closest being a 62-53 win back in 2012. Full of tightly-contested thrillers this series is not. 

And, hey, from a wins-losses or resume-padding perspective, maybe a protected rivalry with #Nebrasketball would be a good thing for Iowa basketball. The series has clearly tilted Iowa's way since the Huskers arrived in the Big Ten and given Iowa's recent recruiting successes and the fact that many of Nebraska's best players keep transferring away from Tim Miles, there doesn't seem to be much reason to expect that to change in the near future. But the prospect of more Iowa-Nebraska basketball games in the future isn't exactly something that gets the heart racing the way a steady supply of, say, Iowa-Wisconsin games would. It's hard not to feel like this would be the second time since Nebraska joined up that Iowa got shafted a bit when it comes to protected rivalries (see also: Our Most Hated Rival Purdue in football during the gone-but-never-forgotten Legends and Leaders days).

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