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Thursday, June 17, 2010
How should Big Ten divisions work?

By Eamonn Brennan

It's the province of the SEC and the Big 12, but, until recently, not the Big Ten: Conference divisions.

Now that the Big Ten has 12 teams -- the most likely number for 2011, unless something crazy happens with Notre Dame or the Big East -- the conference has to decide whether it wants to institute some sort of SEC-esque regional division structure. Is it East/West? North/South? Which configurations work best, and why? And does the Big Ten really need two divisions anyway?

FanHouse's Bruce Ciskie took a look at a few potential geographic divisions. Splitting the conference right down the middle into East and West doesn't quite work, at least not for football; it would shove Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in the East, leaving a Big Ten West that would look awfully similar to Nebraska's old digs in the Big 12 North.

In the end, it's hard to disagree with NBC's Mike Miller -- the best option is North/South No. 2. That grouping puts Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin in the North and Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue in the South. It's not geographically perfect, sure, but it does create a nice bit of competitive balance in both sports, even if the North looks a bit stronger in the football.

But the real issue for hoops fans here is whether or not the basketball side needs divisions at all. And that answer? No. If the conference does decide to use the format, it should make sure the divisional rankings have nothing to do with conference tournament seeding, something the SEC has consistently failed to get right. Hoops divisions are fine and dandy if you want them; just make sure they exist more as a scheduling shortcut than a delineated way to organize the conference competitively. Leave that to football, thanks.