BIG TEN & BIG EAST ANNOUNCE ANNUAL BASKETBALL SERIES THROUGH 2020

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

Say hello to the Big Ten-Big East Challenge.

The Big Ten and Big East have entered into an agreement to play an annual eight-game series from 2015 through 2020, according to an ESPN report.  The series, to be known as the Gavitt Tipoff Series, will be played on the first four days of the season at school host sites, with four games hosted by each conference.  Matchups will be determined based on competitive balance.

The details of the series aren't exactly clear at this time.  ESPN suggests that each Big East team will play six times over the course of the series, but with eight games a year, six years in the agreement, and ten teams in the conference, that is mathematically impossible.  The series could go through 2022, which would make the other reported terms feasible.  ESPN also reports that Big Ten teams will participate a minimum of four times over the course of the deal.  Fox Sports One will televise the Big East home games, while ESPN or BTN will get the Big Ten-hosted games.

A partnership with the newly-reformed Big East makes a ton of sense for the Big Ten.  The two conferences' footprints overlap perfectly; the Big East runs from New York City to Washington along the East Coast, and through the Rust Belt to Omaha.  The Big East's biggest markets -- NYC, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis -- are either target Big Ten markets or solidly in the Big Ten camp to begin with.  The serendpity of the television connections -- Fox co-owns the BTN and holds the Big East television rights -- should make the broadcast simple (ESPN is going to have to pay exorbinant prices to get those four games a season off BTN).  And series with two of the premiere basketball conferences, the Big East and ACC, should improve the Big Ten's burgeoning basketball reputation and, probably more importantly, improve the conference's RPI figures across the board.

For Iowa, the Series could open up games against nearby programs like Creighton and Marquette or visits from Georgetown and Villanova, either of which would be important to a program still digging out of a lost decade.  It should also help an ongoing issue: Iowa's strength of schedule, which has suffered in recent years despite a strenuous Big Ten slate.  At least four times over the coming seasons, Iowa will have a Big East game, an ACC game, Iowa State, UNI or Drake on a neutral site, and a preseason tournament on the schedule.  That should generate at least six solid games in a twelve-game non-conference schedule.  That, combined with an 18-game Big Ten calendar, should be sufficient to get a 20-win Iowa into the NCAA Tournament.

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