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Friday Potpourri: Big Ten Divisions, Championship Game Location, MSU Basketball Scheduling

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The MSU basketball's been pretty good there. How 'bout some MSU football?
The MSU basketball's been pretty good there. How 'bout some MSU football?

While we've been engaged in recruiting-commit-palooza (we haven't even talked about Darien Harris yet, by the way), the rest of the MSU/Big Ten sports universe has marched on.  Let's move quickly (but not quite laconically) through the news.

Barry Alvarez on Big Ten Divisions

Teddy Greinstein:

Most of the talk regarding Big Ten divisions has centered on the need to split up the "big four" -- Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska.

But that thinking might be flawed. Perhaps it's the "big six" -- adding Wisconsin and Iowa -- that needs to be chopped up.

"You have six teams that have separated themselves," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told the Tribune. "You can't have four in one division."

That thinking could pave the way for having Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State anchor the east (with Michigan State, Purdue and Indiana) and Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa man the west (joined by Northwestern, Illinois and Minnesota).

Boy, a simple East-West geographic split.  Who'd a thunk it?

Alvarez says the Big Ten is using a variety of measures to look at team performance since 1993.  The precise measure they use doesn't really matter much.  If you draw the line at 1993, as opposed to going back 3+ decades, the bottom line is that Iowa and Wisconsin aren't going to look that much different than Michigan, Nebraska, and Penn State.  Any "competitive balance" advantages from swapping Penn State for a westside team are then going to look relatively minor compared to the downside of at least two teams losing annual match-ups against their historical/geographic rivals.  Adding a 9th conference game, as Jim Delaney discussed at Big Ten Media Days, would help in terms of maintaining rivalries, but would also lead to a built-in scheduling disadvantage for, say, whichever team from the west has to play Ohio State every year.

You do have to take Alvarez's comments with something of a grain of salt, though, given that he has a vested interest in Wisconsin avoiding either of the outcomes that would result from moving Penn State to the west: (1) being stuck with Penn State, Nebraska, and Iowa all in its division or (2) getting moved to the east and having at least one of its natural rivalries (Iowa/Minnesota, plus a potential rivalry with Nebraska) disrupted.

Given that MSU would ultimately benefit from screwing with the natural geographic alignment, I'm OK with just about any plausible outcome here.  It'll just be interesting to see whether Delaney has enough confidence in his ability to project ideal championship game match-ups that he's willing to push for an alignment that clearly inconveniences a couple teams from a competitive/historical/travel perspective.

Championship Game Location

The decision to play the first conference championship game in Indianapolis makes a lot of sense.  The conference has an established working relationship with the city from the Big Ten Tournament, and Lucas Oil has hosted NCAA events (also on the basketball side) in the past.  And you avoid any weather issues the first time around.

Longer term, playing the game in outdoor venues (Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay) should definitely be in play.  Protecting/enhancing/expanding the Big Ten brand is what this whole thing's about (by keeping a conference name that now has a error margin of 20%, for example), right?  Well, playing important games in frigid conditions is a part of that brand.

Basketball Scheduling

As fanshotted yesterday, the Maui Invitational bracket is out.  MSU gets the cupcake host, Chaminade, in the first round, with a projected second-round match-up against UConn (who could have Chris Allen sitting on their bench), and a potential tournament final match-up against Kentucky or Washington.

The full non-conference schedule should be out at some point this month.  The list of major-conference non-Maui opponents stands at:

Let me know if I'm missing anything here.

Now We'll Go Laconical