Ready or not, here we go.
After a weak non-conference schedule and a fairly soft start to the Big Ten slate, the green flag is about to drop on Indiana's season.
Of the Hoosiers' first 19 games, only two were against teams then ranked in the Top 25. Beginning with Sunday's tilt versus No. 13 Michigan State, Indiana will square off with two ranked foes in a six-day stretch. The rest of the way, the Hoosiers play seven games against teams currently in the Top 25 -- and that doesn't include a game at Illinois, who was a top-15 squad at one point this season.
Needless to say, we will find out a lot about these Hoosiers from here on out, starting with a particularly treacherous next five games.
Indiana follows up Sunday's tussle against the Spartans with what will be a "tougher than it appears on paper" game at rival Purdue. Then comes the much-anticipated home showdown against No. 2 Michigan, followed by back-to-back road games in a four-day span at Illinois and No. 14 Ohio State.
I thought it'd be fun if we all took a stab -- me here, you in the comments -- at prognosticating Indiana's upcoming five games. These next 15 days will help prepare the Hoosiers for March. Think of this exercise as a way to hone your skills before the bracket comes out.
Here goes nothing:
Indiana 71, Michigan State 61 ... I know they just won in Madison, which is impressive, but I'm not buying the Spartans this year. Honestly, I just don't think they're very good. However, with the way the matchups may fall (Vic-Dawson, Yogi-Appling), Jordan Hulls could be guarding Gary Harris, which doesn't bode well for the Hoosiers. On the other end of the court, Adrien Payne and Derrick Nix will get run ragged by Cody Zeller.
Indiana 68, Purdue 64 ... Maybe it's the pessimist in me, but I'm fully expecting the Boilers to come out and play well. Much like last year, the Hoosiers will get tested in a tough environment -- and it won't be pretty -- but Indiana's superior talent will prevail.
Indiana 84, Michigan 81 ... I'm hoping this turns out to be one of the games of the year in college basketball. Both teams are loaded, both teams are skilled and both teams like to run -- all of which should make for a really entertaining affair. Not many teams can say this, but Michigan can match Indiana talent-wise. A couple key (and awesome) matchups to keep an eye on are Yogi Ferrell-Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo-Tim Hardaway Jr. The fact that its in Assembly Hall is why I'm siding with Indiana.
Illinois 76, Indiana 71 ... This should be another fun-to-watch contest as both squads like to run and fire 3-pointers. After a red-hot start to the year, the Illini have cooled considerably. Illinois will be the more desperate team, and that -- paired with homecourt advantage -- is enough to pull off the upset.
Ohio State 66, Indiana 61 ... I don't really think the Buckeyes are that good, but I know Indiana isn't very good away from home. I think this is one of those road games against a top-tier Big Ten team that the Hoosiers can win, but they won't get it done. Ohio State does play stout defense, and someone besides Deshaun Thomas will step up for the Buckeyes -- if he allows anyone else to shoot.
Honestly, if Indiana went 3-2 in this stretch, I'd be pretty happy. All of these games are winnable, but they're all lose-able, too.
Regardless, I'm ready to watch these Hoosiers play good teams on a nightly basis. I may be wishing for more Penn State games in two weeks, though.
Let's see your thoughts below.