The Big Ten basketball schedule was just released on BTN.com a few minutes ago. Here are the games, followed by some of my initial thoughts:
December 31, 2014 – at Nebraska
January 5, 2015 – at Michigan State
January 10 – vs. Ohio State
January 13 – vs. Penn State
January 18 – at Illinois
January 22 – vs. Maryland
January 25 – at Ohio State
January 28 – at Purdue
January 31 – vs. Rutgers
February 3 – at Wisconsin (ESPN Super Tuesday)
February 8 – vs. Michigan
February 11 – at Maryland
February 15 – vs. Minnesota
February 19 – vs. Purdue
February 22 – at Rutgers
February 25 – at Northwestern
March 3 – vs. Iowa (ESPN Super Tuesday)
March 7 – vs. Michigan State (Senior Night?)
For the third year in a row, the Hoosiers will open on the road on New Year’s Eve, this time against Nebraska. Last year, the Huskers played great all season at Pinnacle Bank Arena, so this is not an easy draw. The first Big Ten home game will be against Ohio State, which happens to be right before Winter Break ends. Hopefully this game is part of the student season ticket package, which would help to get a raucous student crowd returning from break into the arena on a Saturday against an always competitive Buckeyes team.
We play Purdue twice this year, first at Mackey on January 28, then in Assembly Hall on February 19. We host Rutgers on my birthday, and I used to live in Jersey, so we better win that one. As has already been announced, the Hoosiers get a Tirico/Dakich ESPN Super Tuesday slot twice this season – once in Madison against what appears to be a loaded Wisconsin team, then at home against Iowa in the penultimate regular season game. I put a question mark next to Senior Night on the Michigan State home game because of course we don’t have any seniors, but facing Sparty in our last game will be a good test before conference tournament play.
I took an in-depth look at our schedule last week, and when comparing schedule strength and travel, the Hoosiers have a fairly average schedule compared to the rest of the B1G. The only tough travel segment we have is when we travel to Rutgers and Northwestern in the span of four days. Despite having to travel from Piscataway to Evanston after hosting our in-state rivals, this is also the easiest stretch of the schedule as far as opponents go. Crean's teams at IU have been criticized for struggling down the stretch, so winning these three in a row would put some of those concerns to rest.
Last year, the Hoosiers finished 7-11 in the B1G. To have a decent shot at the NCAA tournament, a team usually needs to finish about 9-9, even in a tough conference like ours. I definitely see a path to getting to .500 in the conference. I think 3-1 against the new kids is possible, especially with Maryland coming off a few down years and Rutgers perennially a weak program. We will likely split Purdue, considering their strong frontcourt will be matched up with our strong backcourt. Hopefully we can beat them twice but after last year’s massacre, I can't be sure. Last season, we pulled off quite a few upsets against top-25 teams at Assembly Hall, and hopefully we can do the same this year. I think we can win two of three at home against Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan, and win one of our home games against MSU and OSU. Throw in a revenge win at home against Penn State (I can’t believe I just typed that), as well as a win on the road against one of the Illinois teams, and that gets us to 9-9. So on paper, it seems plausible.
Let me know your thoughts or predictions about the schedule in the comments.