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IOWA HOOPS BIG TEN OPPONENTS FOR 2017 ANNOUNCED

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Who (and where) will Iowa be playing in the Big Ten next season?

Fran & Co. will be making a return trip to the Izzone in 2017.
Fran & Co. will be making a return trip to the Izzone in 2017.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The exact dates and start times are still TBD, but now we do know which Big Ten opponents the Iowa basketball team will be facing in 2017. Well, more precisely (since Iowa plays every Big Ten opponent every season in basketball, unlike most other sports) we know which opponents they'll be playing once each (home or away) and which opponents they'll be playing twice each (home and away).

Per Iowa basketball, the breakdown looks like this:

HOME-ONLY: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State

AWAY-ONLY: Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin

HOME & AWAY: Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers

It's still far too soon to know how the 2016-17 season will play out, but overall this looks like a pretty favorable — and seemingly manageable -- schedule for Iowa. Illinois, Nebraska, and Rutgers were three of the four worst Big Ten teams a year ago and while all figure to be improved next season (Rutgers, for one, could hardly be much worse), they're definitely not the most daunting teams to play home and away. Meanwhile, Maryland is losing an incredible amount from their team -- Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon, Diamond State, and Robert Carter are all either graduating or heading to the NBA Draft -- although they return Melo Trimble and bring in some well-regarded recruits. Purdue might be the toughest of Iowa's double-play opponents; Our Most Hated Rivals lose A.J. Hammons, but they return several other key players and add Michigan transfer Spike Albrecht.

Michigan and Penn State could be two of the more improved teams in the Big Ten next year, so getting to play them in Iowa City should be a nice advantage. Indiana again should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten, so skipping a trip to Bloomington and playing them only in Iowa City should boost Iowa's odds of getting a win over the Hoosiers. Ohio State lost several depth players to transfer over the offseason, but they are expected to return their entire starting lineup for next season.

Iowa does have some daunting road games -- Iowa ended their Breslin Center hex with a win in East Lansing last year, but winning at Michigan State is always a challenge.  (That said, given how much rebuilding/reloading MSU has to do next year as well, they might not be quite as formidable as the typical Spartan squad in East Lansing -- especially if Iowa is able to get them early in the season.)  And the Kohl Center is always a difficult place to grab a win, but given how good Wisconsin is expected to be next year, Iowa catches a bit of a break by only playing them once and playing a game they would be expected to lose anyway on the road. Minnesota and Northwestern should vie for places in the creamy middle of the Big Ten next year and could be decent opportunities for Iowa to try and snatch a road win in league play.

As ever, we'll be in a far better position to assess the difficulty of Iowa's schedule once games get underway next winter. But for now, it does seem like Iowa landed a Big Ten schedule that shouldn't be too brutal.  That could have some concerns re: RPI (for instance, playing Rutgers twice may not do Iowa many favors), but given the challenges on the non-conference slate for Iowa and the rebuilding that will be taking place on Iowa's own roster with four new starters, we're not going to say "no" to a more forgiving Big Ten schedule.