A Preview by Kyle Dunne, IU Contributor
Out of Conference Schedule
Although the Hoosiers’ out of conference schedule may be a bit stronger than the past few years, it is still relatively weak. The marquee matchups during the first 12 games of the regular season will be when the Hoosiers play Kentucky and Butler in Bloomington, Notre Dame in Indianapolis and North Carolina State in Raleigh. Kentucky, who boasts the consensus top recruiting class in the nation, will in all likelihood be one of the top three teams in the nation when they travel to Bloomington in December for the teams’ annual matchup. Unless there is some surprise that will be the only ranked opponent Indiana faces before Big Ten play begins. Like last year, Indiana will play a road game in the Big 10 ACC Challenge. This time the Hoosiers will play North Carolina State. North Carolina State who finished 15-16 last year, lost their leading scorer, Tracy Smith. However, Indiana still needs to prove they can win a true road game, something they haven’t done for quite some time. At first glance, Notre Dame appears to be a winnable game for Indiana as well. The Irish lost Ben Hansbrough, Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott to graduation, who combined for close to 40 points per game last year. Butler, who is coming off of back to back trips to the national championship game, also lost a lot of talent. Butler has only two seniors on the roster this year and Ronald Nored is the only one that saw significant playing time last year.
The Hoosiers should be at least 9-3 at the end of the out of conference schedule. I predict a loss against Kentucky and a win against Butler. The North Carolina State and Notre Dame games will provide an early test for Indiana and they should be close games but I’m not convinced they will be able to come away with a win in either of those games.
First Six Games of the B1G Schedule
Indiana will face Ohio State, the consensus pick to win the Big Ten title, twice in the first six games of league play. Ohio State returns Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, all of who played major roles on the team last year. During this stretch of games, Indiana also travels to East Lancing to play Michigan State. Although Michigan State is coming off of a disappointing season they have a solid freshman class coming in and also return Draymond Green, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. Following the league opener at Michigan State and a home game against Ohio State, Indiana hosts Michigan and then travels to Penn State before another home game versus Minnesota. All should be winnable games but Indiana can’t get discouraged if they start 0-2 in the Big Ten. I think this is the year Indiana is finally able to overcome some adversity and they win the next three games to get to 3-2 in conference before losing to Ohio State to end this stretch at 3-3.
The Next Six
The middle stretch of the Big Ten schedule begins with a trip to Nebraska for Indiana. The Huskers were 19-13 overall last year and 7-9 in the Big 12. The team seems to lack a true superstar but returns almost all of their key players from last season. I predict a loss for the Hoosiers in this one. The Hoosiers should alternate wins and losses the next three games: home against Penn State, at Wisconsin and then home against Iowa. Penn State should finish near the bottom of the conference as they lost Taylor Battle, Jeff Brooks, David Jackson and Andrew Jones to graduation. Wisconsin is always tough to beat, especially in Madison and the Hoosiers won’t do it this year. Even though Iowa beat Indiana twice last year, I think the Hoosiers bounce back and get them this year in Assembly Hall. Indiana then travels to play Michigan and Purdue on the road for consecutive games. I think both of these will be losses and after 12 Big Ten games Indiana’s record is 5-7.
The Final Six
The final six B1G games for the Hoosiers are split up with Indiana taking a break from conference play to face off against North Carolina Central with just three conference games remaining on the schedule. This stretch of the schedule begins with Indiana’s lone matchup against Illinois at home. Indiana beat Illinois at home last year and should be able to do it again as Illinois is a relatively young team due to the graduation of Bill Cole, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale. Indiana will follow that game up with another home victory, this time against Northwestern. An athletic Iowa team will get revenge against Indiana when the teams’ second matchup of the season takes place in Iowa City. Indiana will beat North Carolina Central before losing on the road to Minnesota. During the final week of the season, when IU hosts both Michigan State and Purdue, there is a good chance Indiana is fighting for a chance to advance to NCAA tournament. I think Indiana wins one; I’ll say Michigan State and ends the season with a record of 18-13 and a conference record of 8-10.