Big Ten men's basketball might be the thing that saves the college game this year. If you made a list of the top 5 games of the year-to-date, it could be argued that the majority came from the Big Ten -- including last night's showdown between No. 1 Indiana and No. 4 Michigan State. The only problem last night? All of the momentum-killing reviews in the second half. If there's a clock malfunction -- and there were a couple of them in the final 30 seconds -- that's one thing. It shouldn't happen, but it does, and in a tight game every second counts. The refs should go to the monitor and figure it out as quickly as possible. But we're really starting to hate the reviews for flagrant fouls. Is it really necessary to stop the game for minutes in order to attempt to interpret whether someone's elbow near a face was intentional or not? No. Play on.
The more fundamental changes to the league, though, are yet to come. Per the Toledo Blade, which summarized the conference meetings in Chicago nicely, realigned divisions and 10-game conference schedules in football could be a reality in just a few years. The former would make more geographical sense. The latter would mean more quality games -- and fewer chances, we suppose, to slip into a bowl game after beating four weak nonconference foes. Not that anyone, ahem, has ever done that.
Even more radical, as we noted last night, is the continued talk of expansion that could bring a couple of ACC teams -- North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech are said to be in the mix for two spots -- into the conference. Added to Maryland and Rutgers, that would put the Big Ten at 16 teams.
And that truly would be the end of the conference as we know it. Suddenly, there would be 10 schools in the Eastern Time Zone as the central (Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Penn State and the four newbies would be on Eastern Time). Even more schools would be a long plane ride instead of a long drive away from Minnesota. And none of this seems to be geared to Big Ten hockey at all.
It's hard to wrap your head around the potential changes. And it's hard to see just how well Minnesota fits into the projected new landscape.