NEW YORK — The Big Ten Conference confirmed Thursday what already had been widely rumored and reported.
It will begin playing 20 conference games in men’s basketball instead of 18 next season. The new plan also includes a provision to ensure that teams from the same state will play each other twice every season.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at the league’s preseason media day at Madison Square Garden that the conference felt it needed to control the number of quality games that teams play.
He said the move to playing more conference games in football has been well-received and he felt the same approach needed to be applied to basketball.
“We think in general people respond more to conference games than nonconference games,’’ he said.
While it will mean a few less guaranteed wins against opponents from lower level Division I conferences, it should improve the RPI and strength of schedule for league teams when it comes time for postseason tournament selections.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo likes something else about it: He said it will help sort out who really is the best team in the league.
“Does it give us less of a chance to play a couple of teams? Maybe,’’ Izzo said. “But I've also been a big fan of the truest champion you could have, and I think that when you're only playing 16 and an 18, sometimes the schedule determines some of the championships over the performance on the court.’’
Michigan coach John Beilein said the coaches were very nearly unanimous in wanting the 20-game schedule.
“It just makes a lot of sense,’’ he said.
Under the new format, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once each season. The opponents will change on a rotating basis but the three instate rivalries in the conference — Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State and Illinois-Northwestern — always will play twice.
“I think any time you have two teams in the same conference in the same state, they should play,’’ Illinois coach Brad Underwood added. “I think that’s what the fans want.’’
The league also said there will be “a regional component to increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas.’’ In other words, Iowa likely will play Nebraska and Minnesota a little more often than it plays Rutgers and Maryland.
The Big Ten also announced the women’s basketball schedule will increase from 16 games to 18 next season. Teams will play five opponents twice and eight teams once. It also will include similar protection for instate and regional rivalries.
Happ honored: Former Rockridge High School star Ethan Happ was one of 10 players named to the preseason All-Big Ten team. The 6-foot-10 Wisconsin junior was one of three unanimous selections.
Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges is the preseason player of the year and he and Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh were the other unanimous picks.
Also named to the team were Nick Ward of Michigan State, Scottie Lindsey of Northwestern, Justin Jackson of Maryland, Mo Wagner of Michigan, Vincent Edwards of Purdue and Nate Mason and Amir Coffey of Minnesota.
Home away from home: After leading Northwestern to its first NCAA tournament berth, Wildcats coach Chris Collins faces a different sort of challenge this season.
His team will play all its home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont while Welsh-Ryan Arena is being renovated.
He said he’s spent some time talking to DePaul’s coaches to get a feel for what the Allstate facility will be like.
“I told our older guys ‘We just need to make it our home,’’’ Collins said.
Tickets available: Tickets for the 2018 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden go on sale to the general public at 9 a.m. Saturday. The tournament is Feb. 28 through March 4.
Tickets priced from $160 to $450 are available at the MSG box office, via Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000. Lower level tickets, priced at $600, can be purchased through the individual schools.
Single-session tickets for students at Big Ten universities will be sold for $20 with details announced later.