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Should Big Ten basketball have protected rivalries?

And if they did, who should Minnesota’s be?

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to talk about a big of B1G basketball news that has become a bigger deal in recent weeks. For years, Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter has been pushing for the Big Ten to implement protected rivalries for basketball. The idea is exactly what it sounds like. It would allow a school to have a rival who they always play two times a year in basketball.

Currently, the Big Ten’s (often comically) unbalanced basketball schedule means even blood rivals on the hardwood like Purdue and Indiana play only once a year nearly half of the time. This is of course due to conference expansion. Adding Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland reduced the number of “two play” conference opponents from 8 of 11 to 5 of 14 (thanks Delany). As a result, teams that used to face each other twice a season almost every year now find themselves facing a hated opponent with much higher frequency. This is definitely one of the things that has annoyed me most about expansion as a Minnesota Gophers fan.

The concept has been implemented in other conferences. Specifically, the ACC has protected Duke/UNC as a “two play” every year during expansion. The interesting thing to note is that the ACC has wisely not forced a pairing on every team in the conference. This avoids an “Our Most Hated Rival” situation where two teams who don’t care about each other at all end up as protected “rivals” on the schedule.

Could this really happen?

Per Hammer & Rails, it certainly sounds like the answer is yes. Indiana and Purdue appear to be all in on the idea and are getting very vocal and public with their support of the plan. Wisely, they seem to be pushing for the protected rivalry concept to include only schools that want it (a la UNC/Duke), and this seems to be winning support:

Purdue and Indiana aren’t alone. Michigan-Michigan State. Northwestern-Illinois seek the same outcome. Good for the league if there’s more. Not every school in the league has a built-in men’s basketball rivalry.

Penn State doesn’t have one. It might take years, or even decades to create one. Why should fans at Purdue and Indiana suffer?

“I don’t think you can force a rivalry,” PSU athletic director Sandy Barbour said. “We don’t have one that stands out. Over time, maybe if we create one then Penn State might have a stake in something we would like to protect.

“Purdue-Indiana, Michigan-Michigan State, Northwestern-Illinois, those make us all stronger. I’m thrilled to support that.”

Adam Rittenburg has even reported that B1G basketball coaches are unanimous in supporting the plan.

Is this a good idea?

So should the Big Ten consider doing this? If the plan would be “opt in” for schools who are interested than my response is simple.


While there are issues with further unbalanced schedules, the teams involved would be choosing to do that themselves. It wouldn’t be forced upon them by conference fiat. It should be a winner for fans of participating schools, as they are guaranteed a game at home against the school they hate. It’s a winner for B1G fans in general as we get more games with “heat” guaranteed each season. TV partners will like it, at least for some of the teams involved (can’t say they’ll care much about Illinois/Northwestern if it gets protected but whatever).


Should the Big Ten protect basketball rivalries?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Yes, even if they make up rivalries.
    (25 votes)
  • 83%
    Yes, but only if the schools opt in.
    (203 votes)
  • 6%
    No, keep things the same.
    (15 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now

Should Minnesota join in & who should they protect?

Again, my answer is YES. As for what opponent should be protected, there is only one appropriate answer.

In basketball there is only one team I truly hate and that’s Wisconsin.



Who should Minnesota’s protected rival be?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    (241 votes)
  • 11%
    (35 votes)
  • 9%
    I don’t want us to protect a rival
    (29 votes)
305 votes total Vote Now