BLOOMINGTON, IN - January 14, 2023 - mbb during the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN. Photo By Gretta Cohoon/Indiana Athletics

Analysis: Indiana’s 2023-24 Big Ten slate appears more balanced

The Big Ten announced 2023-24 men’s basketball home and away opponents for conference games on Tuesday morning, and Indiana’s slate could set up well.

Any schedule analysis at this point comes with many caveats. Rosters are obviously far from complete. A lot of players still have to decide whether they’re staying in the NBA Draft and forgoing remaining eligibility or withdrawing and returning to school. And there’s still plenty of transfer portal movement to come, which will shake up many teams’ outlooks.

Additionally, this is just the slate of opponents and locations. The actual schedule with dates and game times will show a more complete picture of what teams will go through next year.

But based on what’s known about teams so far, and Indiana’s recent history against some opponents and in some arenas, this looks like a pretty good draw.

Double plays against Penn State and Minnesota mean that 20 percent of Indiana’s Big Ten schedule will be against the two teams expected to be at the bottom of the standings. The Nittany Lions beat IU in State College and in the Big Ten Tournament last year, but after Micah Shrewsberry departed for Notre Dame and most key players graduated or transferred, PSU and new head coach Mike Rhoades are in rebuild mode. Minnesota has perennially struggled under Ben Johnson. And while you can never rule out a surprise Northwestern-like turnaround, it seems unlikely at this point.

History suggests a double play with Nebraska is a good thing, as well. The Cornhuskers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, and IU has beaten them in seven straight games. Nebraska showed some feistiness late in the season last year, and guard Keisei Tominaga could be on the All-Big Ten radar heading into next season. But Fred Hoiberg would need a lot of improvement from other players to turn his team into a contender.

The home-and-home with Purdue is expected, obviously. Perhaps the Hoosiers will enter Mackey Arena next year with a weight off their shoulders, after they snapped a 10-year losing streak in West Lafayette in February.

Ohio State should be better next season, so those games could be tricky. IU has lost four straight in Columbus. And the double play against Maryland will be tough, as well. Indiana split with the improved Terps last year, and they could be even better next year. Jahmir Young should be a shoo-in for preseason All-Big Ten first team. When Maryland is good, Xfinity Center is a very difficult road environment to play in. Since UMD joined the Big Ten, IU has gone 1-5 in College Park.

After facing Wisconsin just once last year, in Bloomington, IU plays the Badgers twice next season. That means a return to the Kohl Center, where Indiana has lost 19 straight games. The Badgers missed the NCAA Tournament last year, so the pressure will be on the Badgers to get back into the field in 2024.

But the Hoosiers avoid three buildings that have given them trouble in recent years. IU has home-only single plays against Iowa, Michigan State, and Northwestern.

The Spartans, the lone Big Ten team to reach the Sweet 16 last year, are expected to be one of the top teams in the conference next season. IU has just one win in its last eight games at the Breslin Center. Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes are 4-0 against Mike Woodson’s Hoosiers, and Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a tough environment to play in. And Indiana has only one win in its last six games in Evanston. IU has had trouble with the Wildcats in general in recent years — Northwestern has won five of its last seven against Indiana.

Rutgers has been a tough opponent for Indiana in recent years, so facing the Scarlet Knights just once is likely a positive. But playing them in Piscataway is difficult. Rutgers has one of the top home-court advantages in the conference at Jersey Mike’s Arena, where IU has lost four straight games.

Single plays away at Illinois and Michigan are difficult to analyze. IU picked up wins at both State Farm Center and Crisler Center last year, and both teams will look different next season. Michigan saw Hunter Dickinson enter the transfer portal, and brought in Caleb Love from North Carolina. Illinois has lost multiple players from last year’s rotation to the portal, as well, and IU has three straight wins over the Illini.

But obviously, things will likely look different in the fall. Rosters will continue to evolve — both for the Hoosiers and their conference foes.

The Big Ten schedule is always a grind, so nothing is ever truly easy. But after a season in which IU had single plays against the bottom four teams in the conference standings, and double plays against six of the top seven (excluding the Hoosiers), it looks — at least early — like next year’s schedule could have more balance.