by Kent Sterling
Railing about the preseason schedule of whatever team you back is as much a part of the August and September lives of major conference basketball fans as watching them during November and December, but I’m not doing it.
Criticizing a program for only sporadically challenging itself with NCAA Tournament bound competition is ridiculous when a ten-week murderer’s row awaits beginning on New Year’s Eve.
Sure, watching Indiana play Chicago State, Stony Brook, and Samford (no relation to Fred, Lamont, and Aunt Esther – it’s spelled differently) isn’t nearly as much fun as watching them play Duke, Texas, Xavier, or Kentucky, but wearing out your team in December isn’t going to make the Big Ten season a lot of fun either.
The schedule has some interesting games that will generate huge interest, as though Indiana Basketball doesn’t already. Watching Indiana try to attack the 2-3 zone of Syracuse again will be fascinating. Last year’s Sweet Sixteen tilt made the Hoosiers look like they had never seen a 2-3 before. It might that they had never seen one executed so well.
There was also a moment last year when I thought Indiana lost its legs. Down 28-25 entering the second half against Ohio State in Bloomington on March 5th, Indiana played with crispness for the first five minutes of the second half to take a 39-34 lead. Then they hit a wall, and were outscored 33-19 over the last 15 minutes. They were a shell of the team that lost only three games through the huge 72-68 win at Michigan State on February 19th. Over the next nine games, the Hoosiers lost four, including the game against the Orangemen.
The thing that’s tough about coaching a team that earnestly works its ass of day in and day out is that they will never hold anything back, and if a coach isn’t careful, they will burn through their legs. Last year’s IU team was earnest and diligent. And legs sometimes don’t come back. The Hoosiers aren’t likely to be as top heavy this year, so that might not be a problem.
I also have January 14th and February 25th circled, and you can bet Tom Crean does too. Indiana plays Wisconsin on those two nights. ESPN loves those matchups and will broadcast both. Crean has never beaten Bo Ryan, and those two don’t play golf together, or socialize on any level. The handshake at the end of the game will be worth watching, regardless of the outcome.
How this roster comes together should be fascinating. Lots of youth, and a new cultural leader or leaders. Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Maurice Creek, Remy Abell, and Derek Elston are gone. Remaining are Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Peter Jurkin, Taylor Wayer, Raphael Smith, Jeff Howard, and Jeremy Hollowell.
The preseason features, Washington, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and either Boston College or UConn. Those four games are challenging enough before the Big Ten season gets rolling on New Years Eve.
I have no idea whether this team will win 16 or 30. Should be fun.
- November 8 vs. Chicago State, 7p
- November 12 vs. LIU Brooklyn (2K Sports Classic), TBA
- November 15 vs. Samford, 7p
- November 17 vs. Stony Brook (2K Sports Classic) 5p
2K SPORTS CLASSIC BENEFITTING WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT (Madison Square Garden)
- November 21 vs. Washington (@Madison Square Garden), 9p
- November 22 vs. Boston College/UConn (@Madison Square Garden), 5p/7p
- November 26 vs. Evansville, 8p
BIG TEN/ACC CHALLENGE
- December 3 at Syracuse, 7:15p
- December 7 vs. North Florida, 7:30p
- December 10 vs. Oakland, 7p
CROSSROADS CLASSIC (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
- December 14 vs. Notre Dame, 3:15p
- December 20 vs. Nicholls State, 7p
- December 22 vs. Kennesaw State, 12p
- December 31 at Illinois, 3p
- January 4 vs. Michigan State, 2p
- January 11 at Penn State, 12p
- January 14 vs. Wisconsin, 7p
- January 18 vs. Northwestern, TBA
- January 21 at Michigan State, 7p
- January 26 vs. Illinois, 3p
- January 30 at Nebraska, 8:15p
- February 2 vs. Michigan, 1p
- February 8 at Minnesota, 8:15p
- February 12 vs. Penn State, 7p
- February 15 at Purdue, 4p
- February 18 vs. Iowa, 9p
- February 22/23 at Northwestern, TBA
- February 25 at Wisconsin, 9p
- March 2 vs. Ohio State, 12p/4p
- March 5 vs, Nebraska, 7p
- March 8 at Michigan, 6p
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)