ESPN announced its ACC/Big Ten Challenge pairings for next December yesterday. Duke vs. Wisconsin is the highlight matchup, while Ohio State vs. Louisville and Syracuse vs. Michigan are two of the other marquee matchups in the annual series. Indiana, meanwhile, has drawn Pitt.
After crushing UNC at Assembly Hall in the 2012 Challenge, The Hoosiers traveled to Syracuse last year for the made-for-TV tournament (the game never happened as far as I'm concerned). Thus, Indiana is due for a home game this year, and will host the Panthers on December 2 in Assembly Hall. While Pitt is losing its best player in Lamar Patterson next season, the Panthers have consistently been an NCAA tournament team under coach Jamie Dixon. Last year was no exception, as ninth-seeded Pitt lost in the second round to top overall seed Florida. Also last year, the Panthers raced out to a quick start to the season against some inferior nonconference opponents, but got reeled in once ACC play began. Sounds familiar, huh? Turns out that both Pitt and IU fans on social media are excited about the game boosting their schedule strength next season. To add to the similarities between the two programs, Jamie Dixon's lack of NCAA Tournament success has been a sore subject among Pitt fans over the past few years. IU is 4-4 all-time against the Panthers, their most recent game being a neutral-site victory for the Hoosiers in December 2009.
With the Pitt game official, let's look at what we know about the IU basketball schedule for the 2014-15 season so far. For nonconference games, IU will host Pitt, along with Larry Brown and SMU, who were NIT runners-up this past season. They'll have a neutral-site game against Louisville in December at Madison Square Garden, as part of the Jimmy V Classic. There's also the annual Crossroads Classic, in which IU plays Butler this year. In addition, the Hoosiers will play the typical 18-game B1G slate, which includes home-and-homes with Purdue, Michigan State, OSU and the two conference newbies of Rutgers and Maryland. I like the way the schedule is shaping up so far; however, I wouldn't mind another good major or mid-major program on the schedule, or better opponents from smaller conferences for our early-season games. The NCAA Tourney selection committee has made the importance of strength of schedule clear season after season, so we need to schedule as many good pre-B1G games as we can get.