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Five games to watch on the Indiana basketball schedule

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With Indiana releasing its full schedule earlier this afternoon, here are the five matchups that fans should be the most excited for this winter.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Indiana vs Rutgers Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

5. Indiana vs. Louisville, Saturday, December 8

I mean, I’m a Louisville native that’s an IU student, so this game is required to be on this list. This series looks a LOT different from when it started in Indianapolis as a top 15 matchup just two years ago. On that New Years Eve matchup if anyone would have set that not just one, but both Tom Crean and Rick Pitino would not survive until the end of the three game series anyone would have laughed. Yet here we are with Archie Miller in his second season in Bloomington and Chris Mack taking over the reins from Louisville. The Cards aren’t exactly going to bring in the national attention that Duke or North Carolina has the last couple of years, but this is still Indiana’s premier non conference home game. Mack finds himself in a similar position to what Miller was in last season, with a team with some talent but almost no frontcourt depth that will face an absolute gauntlet of an early season schedule. Indiana should win the game fairly easily, but the more interesting storyline will be Indiana freshman Romeo Langford facing off against his de facto hometown team. For all the talk about Langford being an “Indiana kid” it tended to get lost in the shuffle that you can see the Louisville skyline from New Albany and that New Albany High School is all of a 10 minute drive from the KFC Yum Center. How Langford handles himself against the Cardinals will be intriguing to watch.

4. Indiana at Michigan, Sunday, January 6

This will be Indiana’s second game of the non-December portion of the Big Ten slate, and will be the first true test for the Hoosiers after the calendar turns to 2019. Even with Mo Wagner finally gone, Michigan returns almost everyone else from their Final Four squad from last year including Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews, point guard Zavier Simpson and Round of 32 hero Jordan Poole. The matchup between Matthews and Romeo Langford will be extremely interesting to watch, as Matthews has become just the latest player to slowly develop and then flourish under John Beilein. This will be the first of two contests against the Wolverines, as they will make the return trip back to Bloomington on Friday January 25. Combined with a trip to Maryland five days later, this early Big Ten road trip will tell a lot about how much of a factor Indiana will be in the Big Ten race next season.

3. Indiana vs. Purdue, Tuesday, February 19

In what will be the second game of the season series, the Boilermakers will come to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall a little more than a month after hosting the Hoosiers in Mackey Arena on January 17. While Purdue lost a ton—including Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias and Isaac Haas—it will still be a raucous atmosphere in Bloomington with IU’s second biggest rival in town. The Boilers do bring back Carson Edwards, who might be the preseason Big Ten player of the year, and big man Matt Haarms, but Purdue will not be the Final Four threat that it was a season ago. The biggest question for Indiana will be how to slow down Edwards. Will freshman Rob Phinisee have emerged as the starting point guard? Or will veteran Devonte Green have the reins? The answer to that question will determine who will get the challenge of being matched up with Edwards.

2. Indiana vs. Michigan State, Saturday, March 2

This will be Indiana’s last Big Ten home game of the season, but not senior day as the Hoosiers scheduled an unusual non conference game against Rutger in Bloomington the following weekend. Oddly enough, this tilt will be IU’s only Saturday home game once the calendar turns to 2019, but man did the schedule makers give the Hoosiers a good one. Even though the Spartans lose top ten picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, Hall of Famer Tom Izzo is still expected to lead a team that will be one of the favorites to win a down Big Ten. Sparty does bring back a few pieces, most notably point guard Cassius Winston who averaged 12.6 points in 28.1 minutes per game last season. Michigan State will also add a top 15 recruiting class led by a trio of ESPN top 100 recruits in Marcus Bingham, Foster Loyer and Gabe Brown. Four star small forward Aaron Henry, an Indianapolis native and Ben Davis graduate, is also part of the class. If all goes well for the Hoosiers, this game has the potential to be a pivotal top 20 matchup that could see both teams jockeying for position in the Big Ten race while also looking for another quality win to add on to an NCAA Tournament resumé. If both teams have good seasons, this would also be a potential slot for the Hoosiers to host ESPN’s College Gameday, which has not been to Bloomington since 2013.

1. Indiana at Duke, Tuesday, November 27

Ahhhh yes. The Duke game. Indiana was suuuper close to pulling off the upset last year—this is also true for about three trillion other games as well—but were unable to slam the door against the top ranked Blue Devils. Now the Hoosiers will make the return trip to Durham for the Big Ten/ACC challenge, and they are going to have their hands full again. While Marvin Bagley III, Wendel Carter, Grayson Allen (finally), Gary Trent and Trevon Duval are all gone, Coach K has brought in one of the most hyped classes in college basketball history. There will be more talent on the floor in this game than there will in almost any other college basketball game all season. Romeo Langford, RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish are all listed as top 5 picks in Bleacher Report’s “Way Too Early NBA Mock Draft.” And while that is too early to predict, it is completely reasonable to say that all four will be top 10 picks next June. That also doesn’t include All Big Ten team member Juwan Morgan, former McDonald’s All American Marques Bolden, and the rest of Indiana’s top 10 recruiting class. While Indiana will not have a good shot of actually winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke has won 139 straight non conferences home games with the last loss coming against St. John’s back in 2000, the hype around this game will be unmatched to any other contest the Hoosiers will play in the regular season.