Big Ten men's basketball schedule released; Terps face a 'difficult' slate, Turgeon says

A year ago, Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon and his team were unsure of what their inaugural season in the Big Ten Conference would bring. In a preseason poll, the Terps were picked to finish 10th in the 14-team league.

Whatever uncertainty Maryland had was erased quickly. The Terps won their first game, in double overtime at Michigan State, and seven of their first 10 overall en route to a 14-4 record and a surprising second-place finish behind Wisconsin.

When the 2015-16 conference schedule was announced Thursday, Turgeon didn't look at it much differently despite Maryland's new expectations. Picked by most to win the league, the Terps have been ranked as the preseason No. 1 team by ESPN and by Lindy's Sports, which also picked Maryland to win the national championship.

"I think it's a difficult schedule. I think they put together a great one," Turgeon said in a telephone interview. "I think the Big Ten schedule is challenging, I think it's consistent as far as home and away and keeping that balance throughout the year. But as I said last year, 'Great coaches, great players, great atmospheres.' "

Unlike a year ago, when Maryland played three of its first four Big Ten games on the road, the Terps open with three seemingly easy games: against Penn State on Dec. 30, at Northwestern on Jan. 2 and against Rutgers on Jan. 6.

"Everybody is good to me. We were down by five to Rutgers in the second half [last season]; every game is difficult," Turgeon said. "You've got to be prepared and do the best you can."

The most anticipated home games for Maryland will be against Ohio State on Jan. 16, Wisconsin on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 21. The Terps take on the Badgers and Wolverines in back-to-back road games Jan. 9 and 12, respectively.

Neither Michigan State nor Indiana, considered among the top challengers to the Terps in the Big Ten, will play in College Park this season. Maryland plays the Spartans in East Lansing on Jan. 23 and closes the regular season against the Hoosiers on March 5 or 6 in Bloomington.

Asked whether he would have preferred to play Indiana earlier, Turgeon said: "I think they did that for TV. We'll both have a good season. I think the TV people hope it really means something. That's why I think it's there."

Game times and TV information will be released at a later date.

The Big Ten tournament will be held in Indianapolis on March 9-13.

Along with the three nationally televised nonconference games, which were previously announced, the highlights of the nonconference schedule are a trip to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge right before Thanksgiving (Nov. 24-25) and the first visit to Baltimore under Mark Turgeon on Dec. 19 against Princeton.