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Big Ten approves 20-game schedule beginning in 2018-19 and will protect natural rivalries

The Big Ten announced during its men’s basketball media day Thursday at Madison Square Garden that a 20-game conference schedule has been approved starting with the 2018-19 season.

It is designed to protect the natural rivalries that have been diluted since the league went to an unbalanced schedule when Maryland and Rutgers joined the league in 2014.

That means schools such as Indiana, Michigan and Illinois will play Purdue, Michigan State and Northwestern, respectively, home and home every season.

“Every rivalry in sports is important,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Preserving rivalry that people have grown up with is a very good thing.”

It is also designed to strengthen the overall schedules in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee.

"We thought playing against each other more was good, and good for the Big Ten and good for college basketball in general," commissioner Jim Delany Thursday. "People generally respond more to conference games than the non-conference."

What impact it will have on the Terps is up for discussion, since Maryland’s “natural” rivals are considered Rutgers and Penn State, which have both been among the league’s bottom feeders.

Teams will play seven home-and-home matchups, and three each either on the road or at home.

Wisconsin’s only natural rivalry is Minnesota, but third-year coach Greg Gard doesn’t believe it will change things in Madison.

“Strength of schedule has never been an issue for us,” Gard said.

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