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Big Ten releases men's basketball schedule that allows for COVID-19-related makeup dates

Big Ten releases men's basketball schedule that allows for COVID-19-related makeup dates

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Schedule Scramble Basketball

FILE -- In this March 18, 2017, file photo, an official game ball with the March Madness logo sits in the court during a second-round men's college basketball game between Villanova and Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo, N.Y. Coaches did the best they could to prepare for the big moment, yet still find themselves in a scramble once it actually happened. The NCAA announced last month that the season would begin on Nov. 25 and teams are still trying to fill all the holes in their schedules. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert, File)

The Big Ten released its long-awaited men's basketball schedule Wednesday, proceeding with a 20-game schedule that includes built-in open dates to provide makeups for potential COVID-19-related postponements.

The conference season tips off Dec. 13 with Penn State at Michigan and features four games on Christmas: Wisconsin at Michigan State, Iowa at Minnesota, Michigan at Nebraska and Maryland at Purdue.

The Big Ten Tournament is scheduled for March 10-14 at the United Center. Last season's tournament in Indianapolis was canceled after one day of games at the onset of the pandemic.

COVID-19 testing protocols will be similar to what's in place for Big Ten football with daily antigen testing, cardiac screening and an "enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions" about practices and competition, according to a news release.

The schedule addresses a chief complaint about the football schedule by providing flexibility to reschedule games postponed because of COVID-19 outbreaks within programs.

Big Ten football, which opened a nine-game, nine-week schedule Oct. 23, has had to cancel three games so far because of outbreaks at Wisconsin and Maryland.

Two sets of "collapsible byes" for basketball will be built in — one for the periods of Jan. 18-21 and Jan. 25-28 and the other for the periods of Feb. 22-25 and March 1-5. Each team has one open window for potential makeups in each of the sets of byes.

Each team will play seven conference opponents twice — once at home and once on the road — and six opponents once, with those games split evenly between home and road.

No. 8 Illinois' conference season tips off Dec. 15 against Minnesota at the State Farm Center in Champaign. The Illini's most anticipated game will come Jan. 29 at home against No. 5 Iowa.

Northwestern begins conference play Dec. 20 against No. 13 Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.

The Illini and Wildcats meet Jan. 7 in Evanston and Feb. 16 in Champaign.

Seven Big Ten teams — Iowa, No. 7 Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 24 Rutgers and No. 25 Michigan — were ranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.

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