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LINCOLN — Like discovering a present left in the back of the closet, Nebraska basketball finally has a Big Ten schedule for the season after the league released it Wednesday during evening rush hour on the East Coast.
Speaking of presents, the Huskers won’t have to open theirs in a hotel on Christmas Day. But No. 25 Michigan might.
Nebraska will host the Wolverines as part of a four-game Christmas package of Big Ten games. Tipoff times and TV broadcast assignment haven’t been set yet, but it’s likely the league is attempting to push inventory onto a Friday holiday calendar.
The game against Michigan — a team NU has beaten once since joining the league — is the second of the Huskers’ 20 conference battles. It’s a rigorous slate, featuring at least seven teams ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25, and starts Dec. 21 with a trip to No. 7 Wisconsin.
The Badgers are one of seven Big Ten teams that appear twice on NU’s schedule as home-and-home opponents. The others are No. 13 Michigan State, Purdue, No. 8 Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland and Penn State. Nebraska will host No. 24 Rutgers, Michigan and Indiana once and play at No. 5 Iowa, Northwestern and No. 23 Ohio State once.
NU and other league teams will adhere to the same COVID-19 medical protocols approved by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force for football. The Husker hoops team, coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday, has had two players test positive for the virus thus far, so it’s possible Nebraska may be affected during the course of the season.
The Big Ten has built in two sets of “collapsible bye weeks” — Jan. 18 through 21 and Jan. 25 through 28, plus Feb. 22 through 25 and March 1 through 5 to allow for rescheduling should postponements arise. All league games are being played in home arenas.
You won’t have to wait until March for madness to engulf college basketball.
The Huskers’ toughest stretch, in terms of travel, starts in late January with a trip to Iowa on Jan. 24. After hosting Penn State on Jan. 30, NU then plays back-to-back road games at Michigan State and Minnesota before hosting Wisconsin on Feb. 11. Nebraska then heads to Penn State on Valentine’s Day for the back end of their two-game series.
The Big Ten tournament — canceled last season one day after Nebraska’s season ended with a loss in the event — is slated for March 10 through 14.
League teams are allowed to play 27 total regular-season games, and NU’s plan is to do so. Nebraska has not yet released its nonconference schedule, however.
Dec. 21: at Wisconsin
Dec. 25: Michigan
Dec. 30: at Ohio State
Jan. 2: Michigan State
Jan. 5: at Purdue
Jan. 10: Indiana
Jan. 13: Illinois
Jan. 16: at Maryland
Jan. 20: Minnesota
Jan. 24: at Iowa
Jan. 30: Penn State
Feb. 3: at Michigan State
Feb. 7 or 8: at Minnesota
Feb. 11: Wisconsin
Feb. 14: at Penn State
Feb. 17: Maryland
Feb. 20: Purdue
Feb. 24: at Illinois
Feb. 28: Rutgers
Mar. 6 or 7: at Northwestern