It’s going to be an interesting season in Bloomington, as a rebuilding Indiana program looks to break in new head coach Archie Miller and a roster that lost O.G. Anunoby, James Blackmon Jr., and Thomas Bryant.
A program like Indiana is never out of talent, and the Hoosiers have some returning in De’Ron Davis, Devonte Green, Collin Hartman, Robert Johnson, Curtis Jones, Freddie McSwain Jr., Juwan Morgan and Josh Newkirk. While there is talent, everyone is going to be taking on new roles and playing in Miller’s system for the first time.
The Hoosiers will hope to have things humming by the time the Big Ten Conference schedule starts. However, that starts earlier than ever this season, as the Hoosiers will get conference play underway at Michigan on Dec. 2 in order to make up for the earlier Big Ten Conference Tournament this spring.
After that, Indiana has a pretty standard-looking schedule in a Big Ten that has a lot of questions to be answered. The Hoosiers will play conference favorites Michigan State twice, along with Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State.
The Hoosiers will get conference contenders Northwestern, Maryland and Purdue at home in Assembly Hall, where they will also play their only game against Penn State. Finally, Indiana’s road-only games this season are at Michigan, Nebraska, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
It’s a relatively average schedule that Indiana could navigate if everything comes together; or one that could turn sour if the season starts off as it did last year when the Hoosiers finished 18-16 overall, including 7-11 in Big Ten play. Indiana’s conference schedule got off to a rough start last season, as the Hoosiers lost to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois in three of their first four games.
The Hoosiers have some work to do if it’s going to return to the top half of the Big Ten standings. Let’s take a look at their path to reaching that level.
Michigan (12/2 in Ann Arbor)
Opening the conference season on Dec. 2 will be an interesting development in the Big Ten. Both of these teams will have a lot of growing to in order to be ready at that point in the season. Michigan finished 10-8 in conference play last season and rolled over Indiana in their two meets, notching a 90-60 home win over Indiana and a 75-63 win in Bloomington.
Indiana will need to defend to Michigan outside-heavy offensive attack better this time around, and it should be easier now that Michigan is without Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and D.J. Wilson.
Iowa (12/4 in Bloomington, 2/17 in Iowa City)
The Hoosiers and Hawkeyes split their two matchups last season, with Iowa notching a 96-90 overtime win at home during the regular season before Indiana returned the favor and recorded a 95-73 win in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Those two scores alone showed that Indiana could put the ball in the basket last season, but the Hoosiers had a tough time keeping the other team from doing so. Iowa should be a tough opponent this season after a number of their young players return after earning significant playing time on last year’s team that went 10-8 in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin (1/2 in Madison)
It’s never easy to play in Madison, but if there’s any year you’re going to win in the Kohl Center, this might be it. The Badgers are replacing a lot of production with the losses of Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Jordan Hill, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter.
The Kohl Center might also be a little lackadaisical on Jan. 2, as the students will be on break (or out of town for a Wisconsin bowl game). However, Wisconsin has had Indiana’s number as of late. The Badgers swept the Hoosiers last year, winning both regular-season matchups before knocking Indiana out in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Minnesota (1/6 in Minneapolis, 2/9 in Bloomington)
This will be a series to watch this year, as Minnesota is expected to compete at the top of the Big Ten after a strong 11-7 showing a season ago. The teams met just once last year, with Minnesota recording a 75-74 home win on a game-winning shot by Akeem Springs with 3 seconds remaining. That game ended Indiana’s three-game winning streak against Minnesota.
That Jan. 6 game in Minneapolis combined with the Jan. 2 game in Madison will be one of the toughest two-game stretches of the season for the Hoosiers. How they handle themselves in that stretch could go a long way in where they sit at the end of the year.
Penn State (1/9 in Bloomington)
The Hoosiers will return home on Jan. 9 to face a Penn State team that Indiana will need to beat. This relatively talented Nittany Lions team is going to win some games this year, but they still finished just 6-12 in conference play last season.
Indiana went 2-0 against Penn State last season, but the Nittany Lions caused the Hoosiers all sorts of trouble. Indiana snuck away with a 78-75 win at Penn State on Jan. 18 after a game-winning three-pointer by Blackmon in the closing seconds. The matchup in Bloomington was even tighter, as Indiana nearly lost on multiple occasions before pulling out a 110-102 triple-overtime win.
Northwestern (1/14 in Bloomington)
The Hoosiers are fortunate to only get Northwestern at home this season. The Wildcats are as good as they’ve ever been, coming off a season in which they went 10-8 in the Big Ten and qualified for their first ever NCAA Tournament.
The teams split their matchups last season, with Indiana suffering a 68-55 road loss before earning a 63-62 home win.
The Wildcats bring a lot of that talent back, and with an upcoming game at Michigan State, the Hoosiers will need to have their system figured out by the time that Jan. 14 game comes around. They don’t want to be limping into East Lansing on Jan. 19.
Michigan State (1/19 in East Lansing, 2/3 in Bloomington)
Early-season reports have Michigan State as the favorites in the Big Ten this season. The Hoosiers return a talented young core — led by sophomore Miles Bridges — that is expected to take the leap this season.
However, the Hoosiers won the lone matchup last season, recording an 82-75 home win over a Michigan State team that uncharacteristically struggled to a 10-8 record in the Big Ten.
That first matchup in East Lansing is going to be tough, but the Feb. 3 matchup is one of Indiana’s last major tests before the season lightens up down the stretch.
Maryland (1/22 in Bloomington)
This should be a good one between two programs with rich history who have yet to face off too much since Maryland joined the Big Ten. The Hoosiers lost the lone meeting last season, suffering a 75-72 defeat to fall to 2-3 against the Terrapins since Maryland joined the conference in 2014-15.
Indiana is going to need to win these home meetings this year, and getting this won over Maryland would be huge at the midway point of the conference season.
Illinois (1/24 in Urbana-Champaign, 2/14 in Bloomington)
It appears that Illinois is going to struggle again this season and the Hoosiers should have an opportunity to sweep their border neighbors. The teams met just once last season, with Indiana picking up a 96-80 home win on Jan. 7.
The Hoosiers have won four straight games in the season, dating back to Illinois’ 64-54 win in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament.
Purdue (1/28 in Bloomington)
The Hoosiers will get in-state rival Purdue just once this season. That’s a fortunate draw, as the Boilermakers will be one of the better teams in the Big Ten once again.
Purdue versus Indiana is always fun, but the Hoosiers will want to get a win under their belt after being swept by the Boilermakers last season. Indiana dropped a 69-64 game at home before suffering an 86-75 road defeat to the Boilermakers.
No matter how the season is going at this point, the Hoosiers will get up for a home game against Purdue.
Ohio State (1/30 in Columbus, 2/23 in Bloomington)
Ohio State is a complete unknown in the Big Ten this year. Like Indiana, the Buckeyes are breaking in a new coach in Chris Holtmann, while Ohio State is also going to be playing with a number of unproven players.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of style these two programs play with after the long-tenured Tom Crean and Thad Matta are gone. The teams put a bunch of points up last season, with Indiana notching a 96-92 win at Ohio State in their lone meeting last March.
Rutgers (2/5 in Piscataway)
This matchup signals the start of a favorable end to the season for Indiana. The Hoosiers will close the regular season with Rutgers, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State. All of those games will be winnable, and it could give Indiana some late-season momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA seeding discussions.
While road Big Ten games typically offer some sort of challenge, Rutgers should struggle again this year, having gone just 3-15 in conference play last year. Indiana won the lone matchup last season, a 76-57 home win on Jan. 15.
Nebraska (2/20 in Lincoln)
Nebraska and Indiana won’t see each other until the second-to-last game of the regular season. It’ll be the final true road game of the year for the Hoosiers, who should have a good chance to beat a Nebraska team that is expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten.
Indiana will also be looking for a bit of revenge after Nebraska handed the Hoosiers an 87-83 loss in their lone meeting last season. The Cornhuskers have given the Hoosiers trouble since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12, as the teams have split their eight meetings.