MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Changes are coming to the Big Ten Conference next year, mainly that the league is expanding from 14 to 18 teams.
The addition of Pac-12 teams Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington is changing scheduling across the conference. The University of Minnesota football team is hosting USC and traveling to UCLA next season.
In men’s and women’s basketball, programs have the challenge of adding those four teams to the schedule while also keeping core rivalries intact. They’re not, however, changing the number of regular season conference games.
Men’s teams will play a 20-game conference schedule, while the women will play 18.
League officials announced Tuesday they’re changing the format of conference tournaments starting next season. The Big Ten will expand its conference tournament from 14 to 15 teams, keeping the five-day format. That ensures that the top four seeds will have double-byes, and seeds 5-9 will have a single bye.
The biggest change? With 15 teams in the Big Ten Tournament, that means three teams will not qualify for the conference tournament at all, therefore ending their season. The conference tournament is the last chance for struggling teams to make a run and earn one of the final at-large berths to the NCAA Tournament. The team that wins the Big Ten Tournament earns the automatic bid.
Ben Johnson’s Gophers’ squad would not have made the league tournament, finishing last in the Big Ten last year. UCLA, USC and Oregon were three of the top four teams in the Pac-12 last year.
The Gophers’ women’s team also wouldn’t have made the tournament last year. They’re currently tied for eighth at 4-5, but are without top scorer Mara Braun indefinitely due to a foot injury.
Starting next season with the three bottom teams in the league not making the Big Ten Tournament, it will make for a stressful last few weeks for teams on that line of either playing Wednesday, or not at all. The ultimate reality is if you’re a team hovering around that line, you’re probably not in the postseason picture anyway.