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.