The Indiana men’s basketball program released its 2019-20 schedule today.
Based on a quick survey of the slate, here are four quick reactions to Archie Miller’s third season in Bloomington, and a first prediction for how it might play out.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A FAST START
Indiana doesn’t leave Bloomington for more than a month into the season (December 7). They don’t play a power five opponent until game eight.
Not only would a 7-0 start be a good thing for this program, anything short of that would be a big disappointment.
There is even a hierarchy within the relatively easy start, with the first four games (Western Illinois, Portland State, Alabama and Troy) all involving teams that ended the season with a KenPom ranking of 249 or worse.
From there IU will have an opportunity to do some resume building with games against more respectable mid-majors including Princeton (175), Louisiana Tech (141) and South Dakota State (92).
In fact, the first seven games follow in perfect sequence from easiest to hardest according to last year’s KenPom rankings:
Archie Miller is a true master of his scheduling domain.
The first 7 games progressively get harder in perfect sequence according to KenPom rankings. #iubb
– W. Illinois (294)
– Portland (286)
– N. Alabama (284)
– Troy (249)
– Princeton (175)
– La Tech (141)
– SD St. (92)
— Mike Schumann @ The Daily Hoosier (@daily_hoosier) August 23, 2019
But lest you think this schedule is too easy…
ANOTHER DECEMBER GAUNTLET
After seven warm-up games at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, how about 24 straight against power five conference teams to close out the season?
Since the Big Ten moved to 20 games in the 2017-18 season, December has featured a brutal stretch of games — and that will be no different this year.
Beginning with a Big Ten / ACC Challenge home game against Florida State, IU will then go on to play at Wisconsin, vs. UConn in New York, at home against Nebraska, vs. Notre Dame in Indianapolis and then at home against Arkansas to close out the month of December.
It is also interesting to note that the game at Wisconsin will be IU’s first true road test of the season after eight straight at home. In fact, IU does not play a non-conference road game all year.
Unlike last year playing at Duke, and then another tough game at Arkansas, there are no contests on this schedule that you look at and automatically chalk up a loss. The losses will surely come, but coming out of December along the lines of 11-2 is certainly not out of the question.
But that’s where the fun ends…
NO BREAKS IN THE BIG TEN
After a lot of home cookin’ early in the season, Indiana would do well to keep their bags packed beginning in January.
While there are four instances of two consecutive games at home, there is never more than that, and each such instance is followed by two games on the road except for the final two regular season games.
Moreover, the first two times that IU will play consecutive Big Ten home games in January, three of the four opponents will involve teams that are widely held to be the best in the league — Ohio State, Michigan State and Maryland.
Simply put, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious stretch of games that you can point out and believe that Indiana can go on a run.
FOUR OF FIVE ON THE ROAD IN FEBRUARY/MARCH
There is always one stretch in league play where IU seems to be on the road forever. This year that will begin in mid-February when IU plays four of five games on the road. Visits to Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois should make for a very challenging couple of weeks.
A home game against Penn State sandwiched in between will provide some respite and will likely take on a “must win” feel.
Immediately after that five game run, Indiana will then return home for two seemingly winnable games against Minnesota and Wisconsin to close out the Big Ten regular season. A lot could be riding on those two contests.
FIRST PREDICTION ON THE REGULAR SEASON
Of course there is still a big uknown variable for the 2019-20 campaign, and that is the health and availability of redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter. Even if he plays, how long does it take for him to shake off the rust from not having played in live game action for a couple years?
Assuming that he plays, and those first seven games give him a chance to regain his form, here is how I see it.
I think Indiana will get that 7-0 start, and I believe they will close out December with an 11-2 mark.
Things will likely get choppy in the Big Ten, but I think IU can emerge with a 21-10 record on the season including an 11-9 overall record in the league.
That should be enough to break the Hoosiers’ three year NCAA Tournament drought.
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