Members of Indiana’s basketball roster will begin participating in voluntary on-campus workouts on Thursday, a sign that things are slowly shifting to some semblance of normalcy. Now, with a return-to-campus plan in place, one of the most pressing questions facing the Hoosiers is:
Just who the hell are they going to play, and where?
Already, we have an idea of what’s in store for Indiana’s expected 31-game 2020-21 slate. There will be 20 games against Big Ten opponents, three more against high-major teams at the Maui Invitational, along with a game each in the Gavitt Games, ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and the Crossroads Classic. We also know that IU has rubber-stamped some of its annual buy games, including reported matchups against Robert Morris, Nebraska Omaha and NJIT. How else might IU’s schedule come together? Let’s take a look. (And, in some cases, throw some shit at the wall.)
From what we know so far, IU should have room for two more games — probably buy games, at this rate — at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. That would put Indiana at 16 home games. One of those contests could be a matchup with a Big East opponent in Bloomington. According to college basketball writer Adam Zagoria, Butler, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Villanova and Xavier are all participating in this year’s Gavitt Games event. Given that IU is already locked in to face Butler in the Crossroads Classic, it has already faced Creighton and Marquette in the Gavitt Games, and Providence is part of the Maui field, it would seem that one of Xavier, Villanova, St. John’s or Georgetown is most likely to pay Indiana a visit. At least, that’s the best guess.
Because Indiana hosted Florida State in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge last year, the Hoosiers are likely to hit the road this fall. The lineup doesn’t always alternate that way — Indiana has hosted ACC opponents in back-to-back years twice in the first 21 years of the Challenge, most recently in 2016 and 2017 — but teams can usually expect to trade home/road designations.
Could this be the year that IU draws Virginia? The two programs have yet to meet in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the Cavaliers were on the road for last year’s event. Plus, it feels like we’re way overdue for an Archie Miller-Tony Bennett matchup that ends with a final score of 40-36. Other possible ACC opponents might be Miami or Notre Dame … or Duke because ESPN has only paired the programs three times in the past five seasons.
“Our non-conference schedule is done, other than learning who the opponents are from the Gavitt and ACC Challenge and where those two games will be,” Miller said on a recent Facebook Live chat. “We’re hopeful Assembly Hall will get one of them, and we’ll be on the road, probably, for the other one.”
Again, the best guess is home for Gavitt, away for ACC. As for the Maui trip, Indiana is still planning to make its long-anticipated Thanksgiving week trip to paradise, where the field will include Alabama, Davidson, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UCLA. Typically, the Maui matchups are announced in mid-summer.
“As of right now, Maui is on the books and it hasn’t changed,” Miller said. “... Our non-conference schedule will be different. A couple (buy) games early. The Gavitt Games is usually around the third one of the year. Maui would take on games four, five and six. Once we return from Maui, we’ll be heading, most likely, to an ACC opponent. When we get done with the ACC opponent, we’ll have the two Big Ten early games — our two conference games will be played in December again. You’ll have Butler in Indy and a few more guarantee games that we’ve been able to finalize with our dates. So it’s a very different non-conference schedule.”
This is, of course, all subject to change. Usually by this point in the calendar, we would know IU’s Big Ten matchups, along with its ACC/Big Ten Challenge and Gavitt Games assignments, too. But with ongoing concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 infections this fall, it seems there are still plenty of moving pieces that organizers at all levels are still trying to fit into place. That certainly appears to be the case in the Big Ten, where the conference is considering a different scheduling philosophy that would reduce travel costs this season. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, league officials have discussed “two-for-one” road trips that would have far-flung programs such as Nebraska, for example, make one trip to the East Coast to knock out back-to-back games against Rutgers and Maryland in the span of one weekend.
However it all comes together for Indiana, it’s already shaping up to be a challenging, interesting schedule. Here’s to hoping the rest of the picture comes into focus before long.