The Big Ten released the opponents and home or away designation for next year's conference basketball season, although dates and times for those games won't be set until later this summer. But we do know a bit more about exactly who Iowa will be playing in league play next year:
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) April 19, 2018
Reminder: next year is the first year for the 20-game conference schedule for Big Ten teams, so we'll be seeing our favorite (and not-so-favorite) league faces a little bit more often.
In terms of frequency, here's the breakdown for Iowa's league opponents:
SINGLE-PLAY (HOME): Illinois, Maryland, Michigan
SINGLE-PLAY (AWAY): Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue
DOUBLE-PLAY (HOME AND AWAY): Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin
Iowa has single-plays against two of the league's top teams last year (Michigan and Purdue) as well as against two of its worst (Illinois and Minnesota). Of course, both Michigan and Purdue are losing significant key contributors from this year's teams, while Minnesota and Illinois are likely to improve.
Among double plays, Iowa has the defending league champion (Michigan State) as well as two of last year's biggest surprises in the league (Ohio State and Nebraska). Michigan State is expected to lose several players to the NBA Draft, but Sparty being Sparty, they'll no doubt reload with strong talent for next year. The success of Ohio State and Nebraska is one of the reasons why projecting schedule difficulty for next season can be such a futile endeavor. OSU and Nebraska were two of the bottom four Big Ten teams last year and no one expected them to rebound in such emphatic fashion this season -- but they did.
On paper, this schedule for Iowa looks challenging, but potentially manageable (presuming improvement from Iowa, particularly on the defensive end). But there are so many unknown factors -- beginning with which players will stay in the NBA Draft and which will return to college -- that assuming that it's a "good" schedule or a "bad" schedule or a "hard" schedule or an "easy" schedule really seems like pure guesswork. Does the bottom continue to fall out of Wisconsin hoops in the post-Bo Ryan Era? Does the looming cloud over Michigan State start to impact Sparty hoops? Does Rutgers make a leap in year three under Steve Pikiell? (As Iowa fans we probably shouldn't assume wins over anyone after the way this last season played out, and certainly not Rutgers after they absolutely housed by almost 20 points.) And so on.
But, hey, we do know exactly who Iowa will be playing in league competition next winter and where they'll be playing them. Iowa's 2018-19 hoops schedule is starting to come into focus.