As of late last Friday, we now know the full schedule for IU hoops schedule for the 2014-15 season. Highlights of the nonconference schedule include two separate trips to New York City, a couple of high-profile teams in Assembly Hall, and the annual Crossroads Classic game in Indy. A couple weeks ago, I previewed IU's Big Ten slate; now, let's look more in-depth at the non-conference games, categorized by the skill level of each of the opponents (using their KenPom rankings, which I highly recommend for any diehard college hoops fan).
The top billing of the nonconference slate has to be Louisville, who the Hoosiers will play in Madison Square Garden on December 9 as part of the Jimmy V Classic. While I'm not a huge fan of neutral-site college hoops games, I can certainly understand the appeal of playing in a tournament where proceeds will go to a great cause such as the V Foundation. This is the first time that the Hoosiers have played the Cardinals in over a decade, and despite losing Russ Smith, Rick Pitino should have the Cards in position as one of the top teams in their inaugural ACC season. The Louisville game should also be a good early test of how the Hoosiers can play against a solid big man, as 6-8 Montrezl Harrell should be one of best players on the Cards again this season.
The Hoosiers travel back to MSG 18 days later to face Georgetown in a noon tipoff. Two years ago, IU outlasted the Hoyas in overtime in a memorable game in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. Now, both teams will meet again after they both had down seasons. If IU football makes a bowl game and is selected to play in the Pinstripe Bowl, then December 27 could be a potentially fun day for NYC-based Hoosier fans, who could take the subway uptown to the Bronx after the basketball game ends, in time for a 4:30 kickoff at Yankee Stadium.
After traveling to Syrcause last year, this is now IU's turn to host an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, and they will do so on December 2 against Pitt. On November 20, the Hoosiers host Larry Brown and SMU. Arguably the best team not to make the tournament last season, the Mustangs will be without top recruit Emmanuel Mudiay, who decided to play in China instead due to eligibility concerns, but they should still be a good early test for this young Hoosier team. In addition, Indiana draws Butler this year in the Crossroads Classic up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Hoosiers will attempt to avenge a 2012 overtime loss to the Bulldogs. To heighten the stakes of this biennial in-state game, Austin Etherington has transferred to Butler and will be eligible for the Bulldogs this season, though he will be coming off foot surgery.
Mike Davis will be returning to Assembly Hall, this time as coach of Texas Southern. The Tigers had the lowest KenPom ranking of any team that made the NCAA Tournament, losing to Cal Poly in a play-in game. Savannah State may be remembered by hardcore fans for their winless season a decade ago. Since then, however, they have righted the ship under coach Horace Broadnax, and even made the NIT a couple years ago. Grand Canyon is coached by former NBA player Dan Majerle, and has caused controversy because it's the only for-profit school in Division 1. Finally, Eastern Washington is more notable for its red football field than its basketball team.
The Hoosiers play four teams with below-300 KenPom rankings. IU's home opener on November 14 is against Mississippi Valley State. MVSU was the fifth-lowest ranked team in KenPom last year, finishing 9-23 in the SWAC. However, their nickname is the Delta Devils, which is probably the fifth-coolest nickname in all of D-1, so that balances things out a bit. Lamar was likely scheduled as a homecoming for Pat Knight, but he was fired as their coach last year after coaching the Cardinals to a 4-26 season. Only a few spots up the KenPom rankings, at 314 and 318 respectively, are New Orleans and UNC-Greensboro. A close game against any of these four opponents, and we may be in for a long season in Bloomington.
Overall, with eight teams ranked 239th or below in last year's KenPom rankings, the Hoosiers will have quite a few warmup games in Assembly Hall to start the season. While the athletics department did make an effort to get a few more marquee matchups before the start of conference play, I still am surprised about the weakness of the rest of the early games. Were there no other top-200 teams who wanted to make the trip to Bloomington? Were Missouri Valley teams such as Indiana State or Illinois State (where Nick Zeisloft transferred from) already full in their schedules for this season? What about one of the plethora of solid mid-major teams in Kentucky (WKU, EKU, Morehead State, etc.)? I understand why the Hoosiers would want to schedule some cupcakes, and I'm fine with that to help the team build its confidence. But I also wish that a few of those cupcake games could be better opponents to better show what the team is made of before Big Ten play begins on New Year's Eve.
Below is the full nonconference slate. All games are in Assembly Hall unless otherwise noted (click here for the full schedule):
11/10/14 vs. Indianapolis (Exhibition)
11/14/14 vs. Mississippi Valley State
11/17/14 vs. Texas Southern
11/20/14 vs. SMU
11/22/14 vs. Lamar
11/24/14 vs. Eastern Washington
11/28/14 vs. Greensboro
12/02/14 vs. Pittsburgh 7:00 p.m. ET
12/06/14 vs. Savannah State
12/09/14 vs. Louisville (game in New York City)
12/13/14 vs. Grand Canyon
12/20/14 vs. Butler (game in Indianapolis)
12/22/14 vs. New Orleans
12/27/14 vs. Georgetown (game in New York City)