Ranking the 2022-23 Big Ten conference basketball strength of schedule
We don’t yet know the dates, but we do know the basic structure of every Big Ten basketball team’s conference schedule for the 2022-23 season. The league released the conference opponents for each team last week.
Due to the structure of Big Ten basketball — 14 teams playing a 20-game schedule — there is no equity here. Everybody faces 3 opponents at home, 3 on the road and plays a home-and-home with the remaining 7 schools.
Using our special Saturday Tradition formula, we have calculated the strength of schedule for each team.
To call this formula scientific is a stretch. Even calling it “good” might be a stretch.
We assigned a point value to each team based on our revised way-too-early Big Ten preseason power rankings. And by the time the non-conference schedule is completed in late December, chances are this list will look quite different.
Way-too-early preseason rankings
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
The scoring system here works like golf — toughness is measured from the lowest overall number of points on a team’s schedule to the highest. A home-and-home against Minnesota is worth 28 points. A home-and-home with Indiana is worth 2.
How important will strength of schedule end up being in next season’s conference race? Potentially quite significant.
On paper, Indiana appears to have the strongest team coming back next year. But the Hoosiers will have a difficult path in front of them, and that edge could be more than enough for someone else in the field to surpass them. From Illinois to Ohio State, the next 6 teams ranked behind the Hoosiers each have championship potential.
Here’s how I see the strength of schedule breaking down, starting with the easiest.
B1G conference strength of schedule
14. Illinois (170 points)
The schedule gods have been cruel to the Illini the past 2 postseasons, setting Illinois up with wildly under-seeded opponents in the NCAA Tournament Second Round.
The Big Ten schedule is a heck of a lot more forgiving next season. Illinois gets home-and-homes against the bottom 4 teams. And a trio of contenders — Rutgers, Michigan and Michigan State — all head to State Farm Center without the Illini having to visit them in return.
Given the combination of roster talent and schedule, Illinois has a very real chance of defending its 2022 conference title.
13. Michigan (165)
Michigan’s title hopes took a dive when Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate both stayed in the NBA Draft. But the Wolverines certainly received a boost from the schedule maker, because this is an ideal path. Michigan will face 4 of the bottom 5 teams in the Big Ten twice.
But it’s also not a total cakewalk. Michigan’s road-only opponents are Illinois, Rutgers and Iowa.
12. Rutgers (159)
I like Rutgers more than most experts because the Scarlet Knights return the most production in the league behind Indiana. And you can add a pretty favorable schedule to the reasons for being high on the Scarlet Knights.
Other than Illinois, every top Big Ten contender has to make a trip to Jersey Mike’s Arena.
11. Purdue (158)
Matt Painter doesn’t have a strong enough point guard replacement for Jaden Ivey for the Boilers to be a Big Ten title contender. But with a mostly friendly schedule, Purdue might have a chance to stick around in the race deep into February. (Or, the young Boilers could start slow and get ready hot heading into the conference tournament, like Iowa last season.)
The Boilermakers get Illinois, Rutgers and Iowa at Mackey Arena without return trips. And Indiana may be the conference favorite, but the Hoosiers haven’t won at Mackey since 2013.
10. Wisconsin (155)
Schedule makers took a guaranteed win away from the Badgers — Wisconsin has just 1 game against Indiana, and it’s at Assembly Hall. Indiana hasn’t won at Wisconsin since the year Kohl Center opened.
The Badgers don’t have to make return trips to some of the league’s toughest venues, though. Wisconsin hosts Rutgers, Michigan State and Purdue.
9. Iowa (151)
The Hawkeyes have a pretty favorable road-home split.
They’ll have to visit Mackey Arena, but their other road-only opponents are Penn State and Minnesota. Plus, Iowa won’t have to return trips against Illinois and Michigan.
T-8. Ohio State (145)
Deceptively easy, or deceptively difficult?
Ohio State gets Penn State and Minnesota at home, though neither opponent requires home-court advantage for an extra edge.
The Buckeyes have a strange mix of road difficulty, visiting Indiana and Michigan while also taking a trip to Nebraska. But considering last year’s results against the Huskers — an overtime road win and a home loss — that matchup should not be considered a cakewalk.
T-8. Indiana (145)
If the Hoosiers are going to win the Big Ten for the first time since 2016, it will be earned. Of the 7 teams most likely to contend for the title, Ohio State is the only 1 that Indiana won’t be visiting. When graded solely on the home-and-home portion of the schedule, only Michigan State and Northwestern have tougher paths.
The road-only portion of Indiana’s schedule is pretty friendly, though, with trips to Maryland, Penn State and Minnesota.
This is tough, but manageable.
7. Maryland (143)
The Terps get lucky in 1 regard — they only play Indiana and Illinois once, and both games are at the Comcast Center. But road trips to Rutgers, Iowa and Michigan State have potential to be bears. This is a perfect balance of favors and challenges.
6. Penn State (142)
The Nittany Lions get Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State at the Bryce Jordan Center without return trips. Plus they have road-only games against lightweights Northwestern and Minnesota.
There’s plenty of difficulty built in, though. Penn State has to visit Illinois, Rutgers, Michigan and Purdue in home-and-homes.
T-3. Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska (139)
These 3 teams have the same degree of difficulty, though the Spartans are clearly best equipped to handle it.
Michigan State will host Maryland, Northwestern and Minnesota — all winnable road trips that the Spartans don’t get to make. Crucially, Michigan State also visits Illinois without the Illini coming back to Breslin.
Nebraska has the nastiest road schedule in the entire conference, visiting Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan. Plus they don’t get the chance for a road win at Northwestern.
Minnesota avoids road trips to Indiana and Iowa, but the Gophers will have to visit every other gym among the league’s top 10 teams.
1. Northwestern (123)
Chris Collins is already on a hot seat. And with this schedule, it’ll be like 7 inches from the midday sun.
The Wildcats were done zero scheduling favors. Northwestern visits each of the top 10 teams in the conference. Rather than getting a chance to spring a major upset in a home-only game, the Cats get a couple comparable opponents in Penn State and Minnesota as well as Purdue.
Given their weaknesses, a friendly schedule wasn’t going to be easy to come by for the Wildcats in the first place. But this will be especially brutal.